New Epilepsy and Emergency Medicine Subspecialties Launched

Allison Gandey

November 12, 2010

November 12, 2010 — The American Board of Medical Specialties will soon be certifying physicians in 2 new areas: epilepsy and emergency medical services. This will bring the number of specialty and subspecialty certificates to 149.

The move is designed to improve patient care, Kevin Weiss, MD, president and chief executive officer of the board, said in a news release. "Patients can be assured that physicians who are certified in these new subspecialties are qualified to provide quality care."

The American Board of Emergency Medicine and the Board of Psychiatry and Neurology will administer the new subspecialties. Physicians interested in being certified in these areas must first receive primary certification by a member board. They must then participate in the board's maintenance of certification program.

The American Board of Medical Specialties is adding emergency medicine and epilepsy.

Physicians who receive subspecialty certification in epilepsy must be knowledgeable of the pathology, pathophysiology, genetics, diagnosis, and treatment of seizure disorders. The expectations will be higher than the typical level of a general or child neurologist.

"There is evidence that lack of expertise has led to suboptimal care for people with epilepsy, including the use of inferior drugs," Larry Faulkner, MD, president and chief executive officer of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, said in a news release. "Patients who receive care from board-certified neurologists with a subspecialty in epilepsy care will be more effectively treated through the use of contemporary antiepileptic drugs and surgery, which has been shown to significantly improve quality of life and reduce disease burden."

Concerns such as these have prompted the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology to phase in a host of new certification requirements. The changes could take 2 years to complete, so the board is recommending that neurologists and psychiatrists recertifying in 2013 start now to meet deadlines.

Certification Requirements

These new rules will affect most US and Canadian specialists, who will now be granted time-limited certificates that must be updated every 10 years. Physicians who were board certified before 1994 have already been awarded lifetime credentials and will not be forced to meet these requirements. It is anticipated, however, that Medicaid and many employers will offer incentives for senior physicians to voluntarily recertify.

The new emergency medical services subspecialty is being developed to standardize physician training and qualifications for the delivery of medical care in the prehospital setting. Emergency care includes the initial patient treatment and transportation in ambulances and medical helicopters.

The initial care for conditions such as heart attack or stroke may occur in patient homes, public places, and wilderness settings. These medical specialists perform procedures outside the hospital setting, sometimes when people are still trapped in cars or buildings.

"The certification of emergency medical services physicians will accelerate improvements in the care of the acutely ill and injured patient while being stabilized on the scene and transported to the hospital," Mark Steele, MD, president of the American Board of Emergency Medicine, said in a news release. "The impact of the early provision of initial care will increasingly save lives and improve healthcare delivery."

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