For the first time, allopathic and osteopathic residency and fellowship programs will be accredited through a single body.
By June 30, 2020, the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) will stop offering accreditation to osteopathic graduate medical education programs. Instead, the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) will assume responsibility for accrediting all graduate medical education programs in the United States under a single system.
The plan, which was announced jointly by the AOA, the ACGME, and the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM) on Feb. 26, gives AOA-accredited programs 5 years to transition to the new system. From July 1, 2015, to June 30, 2020, osteopathic programs can apply for and receive ACGME recognition and accreditation.
"This uniform path of preparation for practice ensures that the evaluation of and accountability for the competency of all resident physicians – MDs and DOs – will be consistent across all programs," said Dr. Thomas Nasca, chief executive officer of the ACGME. "A single accreditation system provides the opportunity to introduce and consistently evaluate new physician competencies that are needed to meet patient needs and the health care delivery challenges facing the U.S. over the next decade."
But osteopathic training programs will still retain their unique focus, said Dr. Norman E. Vinn, AOA president.
Under the plan, the AOA and the AACOM will join the ACGME as member organizations and will nominate individuals to serve on the ACGME board of directors. Two new osteopathic review committees will be created to set standards for the graduate medical education programs that seek osteopathic recognition.
"This is an opportunity to both reinforce and proliferate our principles," Dr. Vinn said.
Creating a single accreditation pathway is also expected to be more efficient for programs and trainees. Under the plan, MD and DO graduates who meet the prerequisite competencies can access any graduate medical education program or transfer from one accredited program to another without being required to repeat parts of their training. And institutions will not need to sponsor "dually accredited" or "parallel-accredited" allopathic and osteopathic medical residency programs.
Both the American Medical Association (AMA) and the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) praised the move to a unified accreditation system.
"As the system develops, we expect that it will continue to raise the quality of graduate medical education for new physicians, ensuring a consistently high-quality health care workforce for the future," said Dr. Darrell G. Kirch, president and CEO of the AAMC. "The growing collaboration between the allopathic and osteopathic physician communities will only serve to improve patient care for all Americans."