Continuing Certification

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    FAQ for physicians who Certified or Recertified in 2010

    1. Can anyone extend their certificate by three years?
      All successful Certification or Recertification candidates will receive a 7-year certificate from the ABFM and be required to participate in the Family Medicine Certification program. Any Diplomate who is participating—that is, any Diplomate who has certified or recertified since 2003—is eligible to earn an extension to their 7-year certificate. To earn the extension, a Diplomate must successfully complete a series of activities within a specified time frame. The process has been sectioned into 3-year Stages with specific requirements that must be successfully completed by the end of each Stage.

      The requirements per Stage:
      Each 3-year Stage requires completing a minimum of one Knowledge Self-Assessment (KSA) activity, a minimum of one Performance Improvement activity (PPM, MIMM, or approved external module), and additional Self-Assessment and/or Performance Improvement activities to reach a total of 50 points during the 3-year stage. The 3-year extension will be awarded at the end of a successfully completed Stage Two, provided the Diplomate has an active, valid, full, and unrestricted license to practice medicine in any state or territory of the United States or any province of Canada.
    2. What is a Knowledge Self-Assessment activity?
      Knowledge Self-Assessment (KSA) activities are comprised of a 60-question Knowledge Assessment in a specific domain and are worth 10 points. A minimum of one KSA is required to successfully complete each Stage of Family Medicine Certification. Those on the 7-year cycle are required to complete a minimum of 3 KSA activities.

      A Clinical Simulation Assessment (CSA) a related activity applying the knowledge learned in the KSA in a simulated patient setting and can be completed for 5 points to the total points required in a stage. The CSA does not count for the KSA requirement.
    3. What is a Self-Assessment Module (SAM)? Does a SAM apply toward my requirements?
      A Self-Assessment Module, better known as a SAM, was a single activity made of both the 60-question Knowledge Self-Assessment (KSA) and Clinical Self-Assessment (CSA) in a single domain. The SAM was the minimum required self-assessment activity until July 2016 when the Self-Assessment Module (SAM) was separated into what are now two separate activities in the Knowledge Self-Assessment (KSA) and Clinical Self-Assessment (CSA). The Knowledge Self-Assessment is now the minimum required self-assessment activity and the Clinical Self-Assessment is an optional activity to earn points only.

      The SAM does apply toward the minimum KSA required since the 60 knowledge assessment questions are included in the SAM. The SAM also counts as 15 points toward the certification requirements. In order to receive the minimum KSA credit and the 15 points, the SAM must be completed in full including both the 60 questions and clinical simulation. There is no partial credit provided for completing just the 60 knowledge assessment questions.
    4. What is a Performance Improvement module?
      The ABFM offer a variety of Performance Improvement (PI) activities that meet the minimum requirement of one, as well as provide points. The ABFM developed the Performance in Practice Module (PPM), designed as a Quality Improvement activity which takes place over a minimum 1week period. There is also a Methods in Medicine Module (MIMM), designed for physicians who do not provide continuity of care for a defined panel of patients. One approved Performance Improvement activity is required to successfully complete each Stage of Family Medicine Certification.
    5. Are there other module options?
      The ABFM has established a process by which outside organizations can submit Performance Improvement activities for consideration. The ABFM currently offers other options approved for a Performance Improvement activity which have been developed by external organizations. For more information on these options Click Here.
    6. How do I know which activities I need to take?
      If you are currently participating in the Family Medicine Certification program, you may login to your Physician Portfolio and check the Track Your Progress page. This area keeps you informed as to which activities you have successfully completed and what you still need to complete to fulfill the requirements for each Stage of Family Medicine Certification. For example, you may have completed a KSA, but still need to complete one Performance Improvement activity, all of which will be indicated in the Track Your Progress section of your Physician Portfolio.
    7. How do I tell one module from another?
      The KSAs are found under the Self-Assessment Module section of the ABFM website, and the Performance Improvement activities are found in the Performance in Practice Module section. Health topic choices for both types of activities can be found in the respective areas. You can learn more about the activities produced by outside organizations by referencing "Performance Improvement - Approved Alternative PI Activities" on our website which will provide a list of alternative Performance Improvement activities.
    8. I am not a practicing physician; do I still need to participate?
      Yes. Physicians who are administrators or who practice in settings which do not allow them to complete a Performance Improvement activity or an approved external organization activity are still required to participate in Family Medicine Certification. These Diplomates will complete a different type of Performance Improvement activity, options of which include a Cultural Competency Methods in Medicine Module (MIMM) , the Hand Hygiene PPM, or Self-Directed Performance Improvement effort.
    9. Are the requirements the same for everyone?
      In sum, the requirements are the same; however the path to obtaining a 3-year extension will vary in terms of the combination and types of activities completed, depending on whether or not you see patients in a clinical setting that will determined how you complete a Performance Improvement (PI) activity.
    10. If I want to retain or qualify for a 7-year certificate, does that mean I am not required to take any activities?
      No. Participation is still a requirement for being approved to sit for the Family Medicine Certification Examination. That element of the program has not changed. If a physician chose to retain a 7-year certificate, that physician will need to complete a minimum of three Knowledge Self-Assessment (KSA) activities, a minimum of one Performance Improvement activity, and additional Self-Assessment and/or Performance Improvement activities to reach a minimum of 110 points prior to the examination.
    11. If I am behind in completing my activities, can I catch up?
      You may catch up within each 3-year stage. That is, activities are required for every 3-year Stage, but they may be completed at any time during that 3-year Stage. However, failing to meet the first or second Stage deadlines will automatically disqualify you from being granted the 3-year extension necessary for a 10-year certificate. Please note, in order to be considered current in Family Medicine Certification on the 7-year cycle, you must, on a cumulative basis, complete one module per year.
    12. How many external organization approved activities can be completed in a 10-year cycle?
      There is no limit on the number of approved activities that you can take from external providers, but there will be no reimbursement of any fees which might be paid to the external organization for their activities. Furthermore, in addition to the fee paid to an external provider, you will be required to pay your Family Medicine Certification fee requirements.
    13. Does Family Medicine Certification replace the need for CME?
      No. The requirement of 300 CME credits in the six years immediately prior to the exam stands. There must be a minimum of 180 hours of Division I and a maximum of 120 hours of Division II to meet the 300 hours requirement. However, CME credit is awarded for completion of many of the ABFM activities associated with Family Medicine Certification. Once you pass the exam again, the new CME process will be in place in which it is calculated for each 3-year stage.
    14. Can I use CME credits as alternatives to participating in activities to satisfy the Family Medicine Certification requirement?
      No. You must complete the required number of Self-Assessment and Performance Improvement activities for either the 7-year or 10-year Family Medicine Certification option, depending on which you choose. Participation is a requirement for being approved to sit for the Family Medicine Certification examination.
    15. Wouldn't you be requiring us to take activities every year after our 7-year certificate anyway—how is this different?
      Yes. Periodically completing activities is required to maintain a 7-year certificate. However, by providing Diplomates with an option to complete a particular course which will lead to a 10-year certificate, the Family Medicine Certification Examination can be taken every ten years instead of every seven.
    16. How do I access my Physician Portfolio?
      Your Physician Portfolio can be accessed through the ABFM website by entering your assigned ID and password. Once there you will be able to set up your password-protected functions.
    17. How do I track my progress through the maintenance process?
      All Family Medicine Certification components are completed and tracked within your Physician Portfolio on the ABFM website. The Physician Portfolio is your personal database that contains your contact information, online exam applications, and tools to track your progress through the Family Medicine Certification process.
    18. What if I cannot locate my ID and Password?
      The best option is to click on "Help! I forgot my password and/or username" under the login on the home page of our website to obtain this information. If you need additional assistance, you may contact the ABFM Support Center by phone at 877-223-7437 or by email at help@theabfm.org to request your ID and password.
    19. Is it possible to sit for the Family Medicine Certification Exam early?
      Yes. A Diplomate may sit for the Family Medicine Certification Examination early; however, all of the requirements must be completed as if they were taking the exam in year seven or year ten. In other words, taking the exam early does not excuse you from completing the required number of activities. Diplomates who opt to take the Family Medicine Certification Examination before the last year of their certification will begin a new period of certification should their exam attempt be successful. Any remaining time on the previous certification will be forfeited.
    20. Does my participation in Family Medicine Certification change my requirements with my state licensing board?
      Each state has different requirements. You should contact the state licensing authority for information regarding your state's license requirements.
    21. Can I choose any activity to satisfy the requirements needed for the 10-year certificate?
      The requirements for each of the 3-year Stages are a minimum of one Knowledge Self-Assessment (KSA) activity, one Performance Improvement activity, and additional Self-Assessment and/or Performance Improvement activities to reach 50 points. However, you may choose any health topic within the activity type (Self-Assessment or Performance Improvement) to meet your requirement.
    22. Can activities only be completed via the Internet?
      Yes. The ABFM developed certification activities are available only as interactive web applications. However, the Knowledge Assessment questions in the Knowledge Self-Assessment (KSA) activity can be downloaded and printed for off-line review. You then would need to return to the online KSA to enter your answers.
    23. How many activities can I undertake in a year?
      Since CME credit is available for all ABFM activities, you may complete as many as you wish; however, any activities taken in excess of the Stage requirements cannot be counted toward Family Medicine Certification credit in a subsequent Stage. Furthermore, a Knowledge Self-Assessment (KSA) activity cannot be retaken for Family Medicine Certification credit until 3 years after the physician last completed the activity.
    24. What is the cost of Family Medicine Certification?
      The cost of Family Medicine Certification is dependent on the year you begin the process. To obtain specific information and payment plan options, log in to your Physician Portfolio.
    25. When will my extension be issued?
      The extension will be granted in the year following the successful conclusion of Stage Two. The Diplomate must hold an active, valid, full, and unrestricted license to practice medicine in any state or territory of the United States or any province of Canada on the last day of Stage Two and have paid all associated Family Medicine Certification fees in order to be granted the extension.
    26. If I am a U.S. Veteran or currently serve in the U.S. armed forces can I receive reimbursement for the ABFM Maintenance of Certification for Family Physician (Family Medicine Certification) cycle?
      The ABFM was approved by the Kentucky Approving Agency for Veterans Education in order to provide an opportunity for U.S. Veterans and those on active duty to receive reimbursement for participation in Family Medicine Certification. A Diplomate who wishes to apply for this reimbursement is advised to pay for the Family Medicine Certification cycle through the ABFM "Process Fee" payment plan. This payment plan allows for payment as you progress through the Family Medicine Certification cycle by making a payment prior to beginning each activity. The Kentucky Approving Agency for Veterans Education only allows for reimbursement on a per-activity basis. Therefore, once an activity is paid for and completed, an application for reimbursement will need to be filed by you with the Kentucky Approving Agency for Veterans Education with a copy of your receipt for that module and a copy of your CME certificate showing satisfactory completion on the module in order to receive reimbursement. You will need to log onto your Physician Portfolio to obtain the receipt and CME documentation. If you have additional questions regarding the approval process you may refer to the Kentucky Approving Agency for Veterans Education website at www.benefits.va.gov/gibill/licensing_certification.asp. Also, please see the attached link for a copy of the latest reimbursement application from the Kentucky Approving Agency for Veterans Education.

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