Physicians from a variety of specialities moved closer last week to having the opportunity to become certified in the subspecialty of addiction medicine. The American Board of Preventive Medicine (ABPM) and The Addiction Medicine Foundation announced that the first certification exam for this credential is expected to be available by next fall, with the application period expected to open in April or May.
The announcement earlier this year by the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) that addiction medicine was being recognized as a subspecialty and that addiction medicine would be one of only two subspecialties available to any ABMS-certified physician has already created widespread buzz in the medical community, long before the finalization of the examination process for certification.
“The interest has skyrocketed,” Kevin Kunz, MD, MPH, executive vice president of The Addiction Medicine Foundation, tells Addiction Professional. “This is really a new legitimacy for addiction medicine.”
One manifestation of that interest involves the intensified development of fellowship programs to train physicians in addiction medicine. With the planned addition this week of fellowship programs at Massachusetts General Hospital and the University of Utah, The Addiction Medicine Foundation will have accredited 44 addiction medicine fellowship programs around the country, says Kunz. The Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) is developing requirements for its own accreditation of fellowships in the addiction medicine subspecialty.
As with other subspecialty certifications, physicians will have the opportunity for five years to be able to document practice experience as their qualification for the addiction medicine certification. After that grandfathering period, measured from the date when the first applications for certification are received, training in an accredited fellowship will be required in order to receive the subspecialty certification.
An applicant using practice experience as the basis for certification will be required to document at least 1,920 hours of addiction medicine practice at the subspecialty level, with the hours having occurred over at least 24 of the 60 months prior to the application. The ABPM also will presently consider credit for completion of training in a non-ACGME accredited fellowship program, as long as the given training curriculum is deemed acceptable by the board.
Any physician certified by one of the 24 ABMS member boards is eligible for consideration for the addiction medicine subspecialty. This does leave out of the equation osteopathic physicians, who are certified not under the ABMS but by the American Osteopathic Association, Kunz says.
Kunz explains that recognition of addiction medicine as a subspecialty is a necessary condition for full integration of addiction medicine into healthcare. Once groups such as ACGME and ABMS recognize addiction as a disease that merits concerted prevention and treatment efforts, “Then we expect all of healthcare to change,” Kunz says, with payment systems reformed accordingly.
In addition, these developments have the potential to contribute to strides in the prevention of alcohol and drug use disorders, an area where that the healthcare field has fallen considerably short when compared with progress in treating the negative consequences of addiction.
Ideally, Kunz says addiction services ultimately will reach a point where they are as integrated into acute-care medicine as hospice services are today, so that no one with a loved one who needs the services has to worry about accessing the care or how they will pay for it.