Adult congenital heart disease subspecialty certification soon to be available to internists

Internists soon will be able to earn certification in the subspecialty of adult congenital heart disease (ACHD) through a certification program to be offered by the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM).

The program will create a pathway for the certification of cardiologists previously certified by either the ABIM or the American Board of Pediatrics (ABP). The certification exam is expected to be created within 3 years.

The Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) will be approached to develop accreditation standards for training programs soon, according to the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), of which the ABIM and ABP are members.

“Children who suffer from pediatric congenital heart disease are now surviving into adulthood, with specialized medical needs that will be best met by trained specialists in ACHD,” says Eric Holmboe, MD, FACP, ABIM’s chief medical officer. “This new subspecialty will enable patients to identify those clinicians with the competence and skill necessary to deliver quality care.”

The ACHD subspecialty, according to the ABMS, is designed to:

Meet the needs of the growing population of adults with congenital heart disease by ensuring that enough physicians with the appropriate training are available to care for them in a consistent and comprehensive manner that adheres to recently published guidelines.

Enable adult congenital heart specialists to work in an environment that specializes in caring for this patient population and provides a mechanism for transition of care from adolescence to adulthood that would eliminate gaps in medical care.

Develop well-defined training pathways for internal and pediatric medicine cardiology trainees through the ABIM and the ABP. These pathways would culminate in a final common examination and subspecialty certification available.

“The new subspecialty to treat ACHD is an illustration of the advances pediatric cardiologists and surgeons have made in treating congenital heart disease,” says American College of Cardiology President William Zoghbi, MD, FACC. “Congenital heart disease is our nation’s number one birth defect. With the tremendous advances in care over the past decades, there are now more adults than children living with congenital heart disease and a growing need to ensure physicians are trained to meet the unique needs of these patients.”

More than 1 million adults in the United States live with congenital heart disease, and nearly half of them require lifelong cardiac care, according to the Adult Congenital Heart Association. About nine ACHD training programs exist in the United States. Estimates are that 500 to 600 certified ACHD cardiologists are needed to serve patients and that the need will continue to grow with advances in care for the treatment of congenital heart disease.

“This new subspecialty will lead to an increased supply of physicians who are appropriately trained and qualified to provide care for these unique patients. As a result, the public will be better served by assuring that these adults can receive the same high-quality care as are children suffering from congenital heart disease,” says ABP President and Chief Executive Officer James A. Stockman lll, MD.

The addition of ACHD brings the number of specialty and subspecialty certificates to 160 offered through the 24 ABMS member boards. The ABMS oversees the certification of physician specialists in the United States. Nearly 800,000 doctors are board-certified by an ABMS member boards.

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