Question of the Week

As a part of the threshold eligibility criteria in our Credentials Policy, physicians are required to be board certified by a board approved by the ABMS or AOA.  Can we accept certification by a foreign board from a physician who has applied for Medical Staff appointment and clinical privileges?

This is a complex question since it may implicate other threshold eligibility criteria in your Credentials Policy.  For example, many medical staffs and hospitals also require a physician to have successfully completed a residency and, if applicable, a fellowship training program approved by the ACGME or AOA.  Thus, if a physician is board certified by a foreign board, it may also mean they did not receive their training in a residency approved by the ACGME or AOA and, consequently, do not meet that criterion as well.

Nonetheless, assuming all other threshold eligibility criteria are met, you may accept certification by a foreign board even though your Credentials Policy requires physicians to be board certified by an ABMS or AOA board.  However, you would first have to go through the waiver of threshold eligibility criteria process outlined in your Credentials Policy.  As an alternative, some hospitals with which we work that repeatedly come across this issue have incorporated a process in their Credentials Policy to use when evaluating whether a foreign board meets the standards of their hospital.  They consider whether the foreign board has comparable certification requirements, including those related to: (1) education and training; (2) letters of attestation or reference; (3) licensing; and (4) written and oral examinations.  A hospital may also give consideration to whether the foreign board is accepted by, for example, the relevant board of the American Board of Medical Specialties for purposes of qualifying for board certification in the United States (e.g., members of The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners are eligible to receive initial board certification through the American Board of Family Medicine) and if the Medical Executive Committee has previously determined that the foreign board meets the standards of the hospital.

It is also important to remember that the burden of demonstrating and producing information to support an applicant’s qualifications lies with the applicant.  This should be specifically stated in your Credentials Policy.  Therefore, if an applicant has certification by a foreign board, the burden is on them to provide information related to the factors described above for evaluating whether the foreign board meets the standards of the hospital.  If you have a quick question about this, e-mail Charlie Chulack at