If you're going under the knife or seeking some other procedure, but your doctor is not ‘board certified’, should you be concerned? This question, according to one local doctor applies to all medical disciplines. Anita wrote to me and asked, “Dear Jon, I’m considering a procedure and money is a concern. I'd like to know, does it matter if my doctor is board certified or not?

This is a buyer beware story because, as I've come to find out. There are many so called “boards” out there that issue certificates. But only one is recognized as the legal board certification in California,

Dr. Matthew Romans is a local physician who's been practicing for 25 years. He's double board certified in surgery and plastic surgery with the American Board of Medical Specialties.

Romans says, “It's important to have a board certification because it shows that you've undergone a rigorous training program and been tested on what you've learned from that program.”

The testing occurs after a doctor has completed medical school and then an accredited residency program in his specialty. The residency program can be anywhere from 3 to 7 years post medical school. It’s not only written tests but oral tests on multiple cases that a resident doctor has managed and even up to six cases that he hasn’t managed, but is asked how the doctor would manage these cases as well. As you might imagine, the study is long and arduous and there’s no substitute for experience in any given medical discipline. 

Here's Dr. Roman’s advice if you’re choosing a doctor, “The main regulation comes from hospitals in privileging and credentialing. Probably the first question you should ask any surgeon is do you have privileges to perform this operation that you want to do on me at a hospital.”

The reason for that, according to Dr. Romans is that hospitals will require those seeking privileges at their facility to share where they completed their residency in their specific discipline request, and whether this was an accredited residency program with the American Board of Medical Specialties.

There are several so called 'boards' a doctor could be certified by, many are what Romans calls “mail order certificates.” But in California, Romans says there’s only one legally recognized, which is the American Board of Medical Specialties which certifies residency programs in 24 specific disciplines. With an ABMS certification, you as a consumer can be confident your doctor has been trained and vetted to a peer review that is stringent.

“In the State of California, it’s against the law to advertise that you're board certified, if your board is not an American Board of Medical Specialty board,” says Romans.

So here’s the bottom line, do your research. Dr. Romans says he understands there’s a lot of confusion about being board certified, and consumers everywhere should beware. But he says plainly, look for your doctor’s certification from the American Board of Medical Specialties, otherwise you could be putting yourself at risk.

If you'd like to email me a question, send it to DearJon@KIONRightNow.com. I'm also on Facebook and twitter, just search for 'Jon K Brent KION.'