• AAFP Definition: Certification/Maintenance of Certification

    To avoid possible confusion which could result from the use of these terms, the AAFP adopted the following definitions to clarify the distinctions when the terms certification/Maintenance of Certification are used in reference to physicians. (1990) (2008)


    Certification is the mechanism whereby nongovernmental bodies recognize a certain level of achievement by those engaged in the practice of medicine. Generally, such achievement is evidenced by completion of an accredited training program and successful performance on an examination administered by the professional organization representative of that field of medicine. Inasmuch as certification is not a function of government, it does not carry with it inherent legal rights and privileges such as licensure does. (1990) (2002)

    Maintenance of Certification

    The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) descibes Maintenance of Certification (MOC) as a system of ongoing professional development and practice assessment and improvement. It challenges physicians to focus on the continuous development of their skill set, especially those skills that enable them to function effectively in inerprofessional teams, integrated systems of care, and community settings.  The American Board of Family Medicine (ABFM) utilizes MOC to continually assess ABFM Diplomates.

    ABFM's implementation of MOC, called Family Medicine Certification, has four basic components:


    Evidence of professional standing, such as an unrestricted license, a license that has no limitations on the practice of medicine and surgery in that jurisdiction, and no sanctions imposed by entities with legal authority over the practice of medicine (e.g., U.S. Drug Enforceent Agency, Institutional Review Boards);

    Self-Assessment and Lifelong Learning

    Evidence of a commitment to lifelong learning and involvement in a periodic self-assessment process to guide continuing learning;

    Cognitive Expertise

    Evidence of cognitive expertise based on performance on an examination. That exam should be secure, reliable and valid. It must contain questions on fundamental knowledge, up-to-date practice-related knowledge, and other issues such as ethics and professionalism;

    Performance Improvement

    Evidence of evaluation of performance improvement, including the medical care provided for common/major health problems (e.g., asthma, diabetes, heart disease, hernia, hip surgery) and physician behaviors, such as communication and professionalism, as they relate to patient care. (1976) (2017 COD)