Issue Brief

No. 809

Fitness, Knowledge, Progress: Assessing Physician Qualification
February 28, 2006


Lisa Sprague, MBA


The informed and empowered consumer is an ideal invoked by many would-be health care reformers. An actual consumer wishing to don the mantle of power may be hindered by the scarcity of information available, particularly with respect to choosing among physicians. How is one to know who is best qualified? This issue brief looks at the basics of physician qualification and the processes by which physicians are licensed, credentialed, and board-certified. It examines how the evolution of these processes (for example, the move from lifetime certification to ongoing maintenance of certification) affects clinicians and their patients. The rise of quality measurement and pay-for-performance programs is considered as well.

Related Materials

See also a subsequent Forum publication on this topic, with updated information: "Physician Assessment: Measuring Competence and Performance" (Background Paper No. 74, May 11, 2010).

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