Continuing Certification

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    FAQ for physicians who Certified or Recertified Since 2011

    1. What's new about Family Medicine Certification?
      As of 2011, Certification or Recertification candidates who are successful on the examination will receive a certificate from the ABFM which requires continued participation in the Family Medicine Certification program in order to maintain certification. The Family Medicine Certification process has been sectioned into 3-year Stages with specific requirements that must be successfully completed by the end of each Stage. Beginning with those physicians who certified or recertified in 2011, the Family Medicine Certification exam will be valid for 10 years and may be taken again anytime during the ten-year cycle, thus "unlinking" the examination from the Family Medicine Certification cycle.

      Additionally, there is now a requirement of 50 points for each 3-year stage and the CME requirements are calculated for the 3-year stage rather than over the last six years immediately preceding the examination.

      The ABFM will assign points for each Self-Assessment and Performance Improvement activity. Currently a Knowledge Self-Assessment (KSA) activity earns 10 points and a Performance in Practice (PPM) activity earns 20 points. Therefore, the same process of completing three activities each stage will meet the 50 point requirement. Additional activities are available for a variety of options to complete the certification stage however point values to vary by activity. This is described in further detail below.
    2. What are the requirements per Stage?
      Each Self-Assessment and Performance Improvement activity will be assigned a point value, with 50 points required for each 3-year Stage. The only stipulation is that of those 50 points required, at least one (1) Knowledge Self-Assessment (KSA) activity and one (1) Performance Improvement activity must be completed. In addition, physicians will be required to complete an average of 50 CME credits per year, or 150 CME credits (minimum 50% Division I) per Stage. Lastly, all ABFM Diplomates, as always, are required to be in compliance with ABFM Guidelines for Professionalism, Licensure and Personal Conduct which includes holding an active, valid, full, and unrestricted license to practice medicine in any state or territory of the United States or any province of Canada in order to remain certified.
    3. What is a Knowledge Self-Assessment (KSA) activity?
      Knowledge Self-Assessment (KSA) activities are comprised of a 60-question Knowledge Assessment in a specific health topic. At least one (1) KSA is required to successfully complete each Stage of Family Medicine Certification.

      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.
    4. 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 include 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
    5. What is a Performance Improvement activity?
      The ABFM offers three different Performance Improvement activities: a Performance in Practice Module (PPM), designed as a Quality Improvement activity which takes place over a one-week period, our Cultural Competency Methods in Medicine Module (MIMM), designed for physicians who do not provide continuity of care for a defined panel of patients, and a Hand Hygiene PPM, which can be completed with or without a panel of patients. At least one Performance Improvement activity is required to successfully complete each Stage of Family Medicine Certification.
    6. Are there other module options?
      The ABFM has established a process by which outside providers can submit Self-Assessment or Performance Improvement activities for consideration. The ABFM currently offers other options for a Performance Improvement module which have been developed by external providers. For more information on these options Click Here.
    7. How do I know which activities I need to take?
      You may login to your Physician Portfolio and check the Track Your Progress page on the ABFM website at any time. This area keeps you informed as to which requirements you have successfully completed and what you still need to complete to fulfill your Stage requirements.
    8. How do I tell one activity from another?
      The KSAs are found under the Self-Assessment 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 external organizations by referencing "Performance Improvement–Alternative Approved PI Activities" on our website which will provide a list of alternative Performance Improvement activities.
    9. 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 outside organizations activity are still required to participate in Family Medicine Certification. These Diplomates will complete a different type of Performance Improvement activity, which include a Cultural Competency Methods in Medicine Module (MIMM), the Hand Hygiene PPM and Self-Directed Performance Improvement effort.
    10. Are the requirements the same for everyone?
      All physicians in the Family Medicine Certification process must complete requirements in order to maintain their certification status. However, those requirements will vary slightly, depending on the year the physician was last certified/recertified.
    11. What if I do not complete the required activities? Will I still be able to take the Family Medicine Certification examination?
      No. Participation is still a requirement for eligibility to sit for the Family Medicine Certification examination. That element of the program has not changed.
    12. If I am behind in completing my activities, can I catch up?
      You may catch up within each 3-year stage. That is, 50 points are required for every 3-year Stage, but they may be completed at any time during that 3-year Stage. However, not meeting the requirements in any Stage will cause your certification status to change to "not certified."
    13. What if my certification status has lapsed and then I decide I want to take the exam again? What do I have to do?
      If a physician wishes to regain his/her certification status, he/she will have three years following the year in which his/her certification lapsed to get caught up on the delinquent stage requirements. If the physician does not regain certification within three years, he/she will have to go through the Re-Entry Process to regain certification.
    14. How many external organization approved activities can be completed per Stage?
      There is no limit on the number of approved activities that you can completed from external organizations, 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.
    15. Does Family Medicine Certification replace the need for CME?
      No. Physicians will be required to obtain an average of 50 CME credits per year, or 150 CME credits per Stage to satisfactorily meet the Stage requirements. Of the required 150 CME credits, there must be a minimum of 50% Division I credits and a maximum of 50% Division II credits per Stage. Please recall that CME credit is awarded for completion of many of the ABFM activities associated with Family Medicine Certification, thus adding to a portion of your CME requirement.

      Physicians who maintain their active membership in the American Academy of Family Physicians, will be able to apply their CME directly to the ABFM to satisfy ABFM Family Medicine Certification requirements.
    16. Can I use CME credits as an alternative to completing activities to satisfy the Family Medicine Certification requirement?
      No. You must complete the required number of activities per stage, which will include Self-Assessment and Performance Improvement activities. Participation is a requirement for being approved to sit for the Family Medicine Certification Examination.
    17. How do I access my Physician Portfolio?
      Your Physician Portfolio can be accessed through the ABFM Website by entering your assigned ID and password.
    18. 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.
    19. 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.
    20. After passing the Family Medicine Certification Exam, how soon can I take it again?
      A physician has 10 years to pass the Family Medicine Certification examination. However, the examination can be taken at any time as long as the physician is current with his/her Stage requirements and 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.
    21. 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.
    22. Can I choose any activity to satisfy the requirements?
      You may choose any health topic within the module type (Self-Assessment or Performance Improvement) to meet your requirement. Physicians will be required to satisfactorily complete 50 points to meet the Stage requirements, of which one (1) Knowledge Self-Assessment (KSA) and one (1) Performance Improvement (PI) activity must be completed.
    23. Can activities only be completed via the Internet?
      Yes. The activities are available only as interactive web applications. However, the knowledge assessment questions in the Knowledge Self-Assessment (KSA) can be downloaded and printed for off-line review. You then would need to return to the online KSA to enter your answers.
    24. How many activities can I undertake in a year?
      Since CME credit is awarded for all ABFM activities, you may complete as many as you wish. However, physicians who complete more than the required number of points in any Stage will not be permitted to carry forward points earned in a previous Stage to a future Stage. Furthermore, a KSA cannot be retaken for Family Medicine Certification credit until 3 years after the physician last completed the activity.
    25. What is the cost of Family Medicine Certification?
      The cost of Family Medicine Certification is dependent on the fee amount set the year the Diplomate makes a payment. Physicians will be required to pay a Family Medicine Certification process payment for each year of Family Medicine Certification and an exam application fee to register for the Family Medicine Certification examination. As a cost-savings feature, physicians will have the option of pre-paying the process fees and exam application fee to fix the cost at the current rate. To obtain specific payment information, log in to your Physician Portfolio.
    26. Due to the continuing nature of Family Medicine Certification, how does a credentialing organization determine my current certified status?
      Your status of being currently certified is dependent upon your maintaining all your Family Medicine Certification requirements during each three-year stage, including activities, points, CME, and an active, valid, full, and unrestricted license to practice medicine in any state or territory of the United States or any province of Canada.
    27. 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 that 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 a module 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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