This Physician Really a Specialist

Tt is January 5, 1990 and my patient is going to spend a few months in the Sun Belt. I wish him to be observed by a pulmonologist during this interval, and, depending upon his symptoms, there may be a need for cardiovascular consultation. Where can I obtain authoritative information on the credentials of physi­cians in the area in which my patient will reside?

I could refer to the American Medical Association Directory, but this provides no information on the location or extent of training in the specialties of medicine. It does not list certification in a sub­specialty, and thus, there is no way to distinguish between “the self-styled cardiologist with board cer­tification in internal medicine alone, and the cardiol­ogist who has board certification in that sub-spe­cialty.”

For inclusion in the AMA Directory, physicians are asked to designate their areas of specialty on the basis of number of hours devoted to that area. “This self- designated, unverified information about specialty is included in the Directory . . . and appears to carry the imprimatur of the AMA”
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Having failed to verify the credentials of physicians in this way, I could then turn to the Marquis Directory of Medical Specialists compiled for the American Board of Medical Specialties. However, there are a significant number of specialists who have not agreed to be listed in this Directory and there is another group who decline to supply any biographic data, including information on their training. Finally, and most important, “The group that is listed and does supply biographical information does so without any objective verification. The descriptions of residency and fellowship training come from the physicians, and not from hospitals and medical schools.”

Though the two sources noted above offer more useful information than the citations listed in the Yellow Pages of the telephone directory, it is evident that there is an urgent need for comprehensive infor­mation on the status of physicians based upon objective verification.

Recognizing these inadequacies, the American Col­lege of Chest Physicians, several years ago, undertook to do something about it then … at least for the cardiopulmonary-specialist members of the ACCP.