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Maintaining a doctor's education


Do you ever wonder how your doctors are keeping up on the latest developments in medicine? This week on "Take Care," WRVO's health and wellness show, hosts Lorraine Rapp and Linda Lowen speak with Dr. Atul Grover with the Association of American Medical Colleges about the continuing education requirements for doctors and how you can find out if your physician is up to date.

Lorraine Rapp: Most patients are probably not aware that their medical practitioner is required to take continuing education in their field.  How does that work?

Dr. Atul Grover: Licensing requirements are different across states for physicians, but the vast majority of physicians have to complete what we call continuing medical education, or CME hours.  In most cases, they have to do 25 to 50 hours of that continuous learning every year.  There are other certification standards that are also in place for physicians that vary by specialty.  As a general internist, I have to recertify within my specialty every 10 years, but for my license in Maryland or Virginia or D.C., I have to do these 50 on average hours of medical education each year as well.

Linda Lowen: In terms of those CME hours which can vary from 25 to 50 hours annually, [would there] be different requirements across the different specialties and is this something that’s required of all levels of practitioners?

Dr. Grover: Yes, I can speak most directly to physicians and surgeons, but I know that in the other health professions there are certainly requirements for them to do continuing education as well.  What we see is that for a particular specialty, you have to do continuing education that’s most relevant for you.  I want to make sure as a general internist that I’m looking at subjects like geriatrics, infectious disease, gastroenterology, cardiology, [which] may be very different from the subjects or the content that a thoracic surgeon or a heart surgeon may have to study.  What’s really interesting is that if you go state by state, different states have different requirements to have a minimum amount of content in some particular area.  What’s nice about the ability of states to really set these different standards is it allows them to really focus on the needs of their population.

Lorraine Rapp: As a patient, how would we know if our doctor was keeping up on the CMEs, or do you think that isn’t something a patient should be concerned about?

Dr. Grover: I think a patient should be concerned about it.  You and I as patients want to make sure for ourselves and our families that our physicians are up to date with the latest medical knowledge and skill set.  I really do think it’s in the patient’s interest to go online, particularly as they think about going to new physicians or are referred to new physicians by their primary care doctors or by others, [and] just give it a look.  It only takes 30 seconds to go look up the state medical board’s records and from that electronic record see whether or not the physician is still licensed in that state and if they have any sanctions against them.  Similarly, any patient can go to the ABMS, the [American] Board of Medical Specialties and look up their doctors to find out if they are board certified and if they have maintained their certification.  I would certainly encourage patients to do that where they have access to that information.

More of this interview can be heard on "Take Care," WRVO's health and wellness show Sunday at 6:30p.m. Support for this story comes from the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York.