If your car had a unique problem and wasn’t running right, would you take it to a garage that only does oil changes and routine minor repairs, or a certified mechanic who specializes in automotive diagnostics and repairs? It’s more likely that you would opt for an expert mechanic whose qualifications meet the highest established standards. The same holds true for health matters — would you trust the treatment of your serious allergy and asthma issues to just any healthcare provider?
Here we are going to examine the differences between board-certified allergists and general physicians and what those distinctions may mean to your health.
What is a Board-Certified Allergist?
Board certified allergists are specialists who have met the highest level of nationally-recognized standards for education and expertise in the field of allergy, asthma and immunology.
All practicing physicians carry medical licensure, which is the minimum requirement to provide medical care. On the other hand, specialty board certification is a voluntary process that goes above and beyond common medical licensure.
The road to board-certification in allergy/immunology is lengthy. Allergists are first trained to become medically licensed. This requires at least seven years of education and training beyond a bachelor’s degree. After completing four years of medical school, the allergist then trains for an additional three to four years of residency in internal medicine, pediatrics, or a combination of both. This is when the doctor typically receives his/her medical licensure.
After that, the allergist then spends an additional two or three years of formal training in an academic fellowship program accredited by the ACGME (Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education), which is solely dedicated to diagnosing and managing allergic disease, asthma and immunodeficiencies. After all this training, the allergist may then elect to achieve board certification from the American Board of Allergy & Immunology–the benchmark of expertise and professionalism in their field.
Following that many board certified allergists/immunologists elect to participate in ongoing “maintenance of board certification.”
This formal and lengthy education process is necessary to cultivate the expertise required to provide the highest-quality of care for patients with allergies and asthma. By achieving board certification, allergists demonstrate their commitment to excellence and expertise in their field, which translates to state-of-the-art, evidence-based care.
What are the Benefits of Seeing a Board Certified Allergist?
- Board certification tells you that your doctor has attained the highest level of expertise to treat your health issues.
- “Maintenance of board certification” confirms that your doctor is continuing to stay current with the newest developments the specialty. As board-certified allergists, our physicians are required to maintain board certification through regular exams and clinical testing with an emphasis on latest clinical advances, patient safety, communication and medical ethics.
- A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine found there is a positive “robust relationship” between board certification and quality of care. Board certification is an excellent indicator of the level of care you will receive from your physician.
Our board-certified allergists treat patients with many types and varying degrees of allergic conditions. As immunologists, they can be a lot like medical detectives, sifting through historical details and diagnostic clues to solve sometimes mysterious symptoms and determine the causes of your health problems.
Not All “Allergy Specialists” Are the Same: Is your Allergist Board Certified?
Any medical practitioner can advertise as an “allergist or allergy specialist” without receiving formal allergy training in an ACGME accredited Allergy, Asthma & Immunology fellowship program.
There is nothing illegal or unethical about this. However, it can be source of great confusion for some patients.
You can be certain that your allergist has achieved the highest benchmark of knowledge dedicated to allergy, asthma and immunology if he/she is board certified by the American Board of Allergy & Immunology.
How to find a Board-Certified Allergist
Here are some steps to find a good board certified allergy specialist that you trust:
When you start searching for an allergist/immunologist, it’s important to make sure you find a doctor you are comfortable with and you can trust
We recommend that patients looking for a specialist do the following:
- Search online for information about the doctors you are considering and ask people you trust for names of physicians they recommend.
- Visit Certification Matters and enter your doctor’s name to determine if he or she is board-certified. This is a service that allows you to see if a specific doctor is certified.
- If you don’t already have a doctor in mind, search the Certification Matters site by city, state, zip code for the nearest board-certified specialists.
- Call and ask questions, or schedule a face-to-face visit. You may get charged for an office visit, but it will be worth it for the peace of mind it can provide. Ask if the doctor will be involved in your care (this goes for any specialty, not just allergists). Ask if he or she is board certified in allergy, asthma and immunology. Write down questions you may have regarding treatment, insurance, visits, etc.
We know there are myriad options for patients seeking healthcare providers and there are many qualified professionals available to help. However, when you visit a physician who is board certified in his or her area of expertise, you can be certain you are receiving care from a physician who has attained the pinnacle of medical education in that field . This isn’t only our opinion; studies show this as well.
A 2010 study showed that specialty board certifications were associated with lower patient mortality and shorter hospital stays (across all specialties). This study adds to more evidence that having a board certified specialist improves patient outcomes.
We’d like to share a couple of quotes before closing with which we fully agree.
This first comes from Rebecca Howell, Ph.D:
“To patients, board certification ensures a certain level of quality in the people who are going to be overseeing their care. I personally view it as a gold standard in terms of education, training and continuing of education.”
And this quote from Dr. Neri Cohen, board-certified thoracic surgeon:
“Knowing that board certification is a living, ongoing process, and not a one-time exercise, will reassure patients that the quality oversight process is timely and continuous.”
If you are planning to see a physician for allergy or asthma relief, it’s worthwhile to verify that the physician is a board-certified allergist certified by the American Board of Allergy and Immunology.
Because allergies, asthma and immunodeficiencies are the only diseases allergists diagnose and treat, they have the most experience and are best equipped to make recommendations for the succinct allergy, asthma, or immunotherapy treatments for children and adult patients.They also can also educate patients on ways to prevent their symptoms and how to limit their exposure to allergens, which translates to less the severe reactions and decreased need for medications.
If you are seeking a board certified allergist and asthma specialist in Jacksonville, FL consider contacting us – the Allergy and Asthma Specialists of North Florida. Our physicians, Patrick DeMarco, M.D., Thomas Lupoli D.O., are board-certified allergists with years of experience in the care of adult and pediatric allergy and asthma conditions.