Organizations Push for Single Accreditation System for M.D., D.O. Physicians

November 12, 2012 04:40 pm News Staff

The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) recently announced that it plans to move forward with the creation of a single unified accreditation system for U.S. graduate medical education.

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In an Oct. 24 press release(www.acgme.org), the ACGME said it would collaborate with the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) and the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) to establish a process, format and timetable by which the ACGME would accredit all osteopathic GME programs currently accredited by the AOA.

ACGME CEO Thomas Nasca, M.D., called the event "a watershed moment" in the press release and said the change "would provide physicians in the United States with a uniform path of preparation for practice." He added that establishing one accreditation body across all programs "would ensure that the evaluation and accountability for the competency of resident physicians are consistent."

story highlights

  • The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) is moving forward with plans to create a single unified accreditation system for U.S. graduate medical education.
  • The ACGME will collaborate with the American Osteopathic Association and the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine to establish a process and a timetable.
  • If plans proceed as expected, there likely will be one Match day in March 2015 for both allopathic and osteopathic physicians.

In response to the announcement, Wendy Biggs, M.D., deputy director of the AAFP's Medical Education Division, told AAFP News Now that there were more than 100 dual-accredited residency programs in family medicine. "The unified accreditation system may have implications for those programs," said Biggs.

"We just don't know how this will play out, but the AAFP is encouraged that the two accrediting organizations -- the ACGME and the AOA -- have agreed to work together toward a solution that should benefit family medicine residencies," said Biggs.

Currently, the ACGME accredits more than 9,000 GME programs with 116,000 resident physicians, including some 8,900 D.O. physicians. The AOA serves as the accreditation body for more than 1,000 osteopathic GME programs and about 6,900 D.O. physicians.

Meanwhile, the AACOM serves as a unifying voice for osteopathic medical education and fosters innovation and quality among osteopathic medical schools.

The organizations intend to create a seamless transition to a unified system in which residents in AOA-accredited programs would be eligible for all ACGME-accredited programs.

The AOA has created a list of frequently asked questions(www.osteopathic.org) (FAQs) on its website. Among the listings there are answers to questions about

  • why the AOA is pursuing a unified accreditation system,
  • the possibility of osteopathic representation within the ACGME organizational structure,
  • how a unified accreditation system could benefit the osteopathic medical profession, and
  • what will happen to current osteopathic training programs.

In the same FAQs document, the AOA states that the planned unification will not affect D.O. physicians currently in residency because there will be no changes to AOA or ACGME accreditation policy until 2015.

In addition, the AOA said that there is a "likely" possibility of a single Match program starting in March 2015. The Match is the process by which osteopathic and allopathic medical students are aligned with residency programs. Currently, the National Resident Matching Program runs the Match program for allopathic medical students and the AOA Intern/Resident Registration Program conducts a separate Match program for osteopathic medical students.

In an AOA press release(www.osteopathic.org), AOA President Ray Stowers noted that his organization's agreement with the ACGME followed more than a year of advocacy work by the AOA to preserve D.O. physicians' access to ACGME programs.


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