Public input will now be a part of physician evaluations overseen by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), the not-for-profit organization that oversees physician certification in the United States through its 24 Member Boards. In May, ABMS announced that it will incorporate public input into its physician evaluations. It is another step on the road to increased transparency for provider performance and a bigger role for patient and consumer input on the quality of healthcare services they receive.

Called the ABMS 2008-2011 Enhanced Public Trust Initiative, the goal of the initiative is to enhance the ABMS Board Enterprise’s role as a credible private sector agent when it comes to physician accountability. ABMS also wants to expand resource offerings that meeting evolving public needs.

“We have to bring public input inside the board process to make (specialty) certification more transparent and useful to the public eye,” said Kevin Weiss, President and CEO of the ABMS. For 75 years, the ABMS relied on physicians providing oversight of other physicians. That is changing as ABMS begins responding to the new healthcare landscape-one in which healthcare purchasers and consumers want more detailed and relevant evaluations of the service and outcomes provided by individual physicians. “Today the need for reliable information is even greater than ever as the quest to improve the quality and efficiency of medical care in the United States has become paramount,” said the ABMS press release.

ABMS’ decision to add public opinion to its physician evaluations and certification system is just one more way that physician performance is becoming transparent to the public. Physicians and physician groups that maintain good relationships with their patients have nothing to fear. But, for those physicians who fall below the mark on patient care, patient input on physician evaluations is likely to motivate them to be more patient-focused and consumer-friendly.

As a recognized medical specialty, pathologists will be affected by this new requirement of the ABMS. However, since pathologists generally never meet a patient, it will probably take some trial and error before ABMS develops effective ways to evaluate patient satisfaction with pathology services. In the meantime, because quality management systems such as Lean and Six Sigma require a provider, like a pathology group or a laboratory, to regular survey patient satisfaction, pathology groups are encouraged to incorporate these methods and philosophies into their daily work flow and operations. That ensures that the pathology group will get solid marks when the updated AMBS physician evaluation requirements take effect.

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ABMS Assembly Votes in Favor of Three-Year Initiative to Enhance Public Trust in the Board Certification Process