April 17, 2017

ABA/FSMB Study Finds Correlation Between Success on Oral Board Exam and Lowered Risk of License Action for Physicians

Raleigh, N.C. and Washington, D.C. (April 17, 2017) – A recent study published in Anesthesiology provides evidence that anesthesiologists who passed their oral board certification exam are significantly less likely to face actions against their medical licenses than those who passed only the written exam or neither exam. These findings provide evidence that the American Board of Anesthesiology’s (ABA) oral exam assesses important aspects of physician performance not fully captured in a written test. 

The study, titled “Effectiveness of Written and Oral Certification Examinations to Predict Actions Against the Medical Licenses of Anesthesiologists,” found that the cumulative incidents of license actions was three times higher for non-board-certified anesthesiologists compared to those who were board-certified.  The research also found that physicians with at least one unsatisfactory training period during residency were more than five times more likely to face license actions. The most common causes of license action included substance use, license or board violations and malpractice.

This research was co-authored by the ABA and the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB), which provided the data on medical licenses and disciplinary actions from state medical and osteopathic boards. The research analyzed 49,278 physicians who entered anesthesiology training from 1971 to 2011.

“Measuring physician performance on a mass scale is challenging; however, medical license actions represent a valuable tool for identifying performance deficiencies,” said Deborah J. Culley, M.D., Secretary of the ABA and one of the study’s co-authors. “Using this data, we have determined that passing the oral exam is a definitive marker for fewer license actions.”

The study found that cumulative incidents of license actions is higher among men and American medical graduates. Incidents of license actions were highest among those who did not pass either the written or oral exam and lowest among those who passed both exams to become board certified. Passing the written exam alone did not significantly reduce the physicians’ risk of receiving license actions.

Candidates pursuing ABA board certification must pass a written exam, which tests what candidates know, and an oral exam, which assesses whether candidates know how to apply their knowledge. They are eligible for the oral exam upon passing the written one. The oral exam assesses whether candidates demonstrate skills including sound judgment in decision making, management of surgical and anesthetic complications and adaptability to unexpected changes in clinical situations.

The study was authored by Yan Zhou, Ph.D.; Huaping Sun, Ph.D.; Deborah J. Culley, M.D.; Aaron Young, Ph.D.; Ann E. Harman, Ph.D.; and David O. Warner, M.D.

ABA Media Contact
Michelle Taylor
Director of Marketing and Communications

About the American Board of Anesthesiology
The mission of the American Board of Anesthesiology® (ABA) is to advance the highest standards of the practice of anesthesiology. As the certifying body for anesthesiologists since 1938, the ABA is committed to partnering with physicians to advance lifelong learning and exceptional patient care. The Board administers primary and subspecialty certification exams as well as the Maintenance of Certification in Anesthesiology Program® (MOCA®), which is designed to promote lifelong learning, a commitment to quality clinical outcomes and patients.