Public / Patient

    Print this page

    Public / Patients

    What is Family Medicine?

    Family medicine is the medical specialty which provides continuing, comprehensive health care for the individual and family. It is a specialty in breadth that integrates the biological, clinical and behavioral sciences. The scope of family medicine encompasses all ages, both sexes, each organ system and every disease entity.

    When you or a family member needs health care or medical treatment, you want a highly qualified doctor dedicated to providing outstanding care. When you choose a doctor who is Board Certified, you can be confident he or she meets nationally recognized standards for education, knowledge, experience and skills to provide high quality care in a specific medical specialty. Board Certification goes above and beyond basic medical licensure.

    What is Board Certification?

    To practice medicine in the United States, doctors must be licensed by the states in which they work. However, being licensed does not indicate whether a doctor is qualified to practice in a specific medical specialty. One of the best ways to know if your doctor has the qualifications to provide care in a specialty is to find out if he or she is Board Certified and participating in activities to stay up-to-date with the latest advances in medicine and patient care.

    Board Certified family physicians voluntarily meet additional standards beyond basic licensing. They demonstrate their expertise by earning Board Certification through the ABFM. Before a doctor can become Board Certified, each must complete: four years of premedical education in a college or university; a course of study leading to an MD or DO degree from a qualified medical school and three years of full-time experience in an accredited residency training program.

    Each board certified family physician earns initial Board Certification by passing a written examination created and administered by the American Board of Family Medicine. This is just the first step in the career-long learning and assessment process required by the rigorous ABFM Maintenance of Certification for Family Physicians (MC-FP) program. To maintain Board Certification, a family physician must actively keep pace with the latest advances in his or her specialty and demonstrate best practices for patient safety, communications and ethics.

    Board certification is a meaningful indicator that a doctor has the knowledge, experience and skills necessary to provide high-quality patient care. Although board certification is voluntary, ABFM certification is recognized throughout the world as signifying excellence in the practice of Family Medicine.

    Board certified family physicians have demonstrated the ability and the commitment to lifelong learning, which is necessary to provide the high quality care that every patient deserves.

    ABFM Certification requirements include:

    • Completion of the required pre-doctoral medical education
    • Completion of required training in an accredited residency or fellowship program
    • Assessment and documentation of individual performance from the residency or fellowship training director or from the chief of service in the hospital where the specialist practices
    • An unrestricted license to practice medicine
    • Passing a secure, computer-based certification examination

    Is Your Doctor Maintaining Board Certification?

    In health care, practice does not necessarily make perfect. Although it makes sense that doctors with more experience would have accumulated more knowledge and skill, research findings suggest that physician performance declines over time.

    Medicine changes rapidly, and it has become essential for doctors to stay current in the diagnosis and treatment of patients in order to provide high quality care. By participating in ABFM’s Maintenance of Certification program, doctors can demonstrate their commitment to the highest standards of care.

    Ask if your family physician has enrolled in Maintenance of Certification – and if the answer is no, you may want to encourage them to do so.