Truth in advertising

As many of you are aware, current Virginia statute states that if a physician advertises that he/she is “Board Certified,” then he/she must list the name of the “certifying” board. Unfortunately, there are “boards” out there that require only an application and a fee for membership. Their names imply expertise that is not required for membership, and many consumer are duped into thinking that the physician has training that is non-existent. In an effort to protect patients, the VASPS introduced (largely through the efforts of our former president, Dr. Henry Wilson) a resolution that would require physicians to only be allowed to say they are “Board Certified” if the board they name requires its members to meet education and training standards equivalent to those used by the American Board of Medical Specialties. I presented this resolution to the House of Delegates of the Medical Society of Virginia, and answered questions on Friday, October 19th. Despite presenting this as an issue of advertising and marketing ONLY, the language mentioned the ABMS and, though we tried to amend it at the last moment, the resolution was not changed by the committee and it recommended that the resolution not be adopted. Some of you worked very hard on this project, and I am sorry that more could not be done. At this point in time, any mention of the ABMS will be resisted. The staff of the MSV was supportive of our efforts, but certain member physicians of the MSV (the ones who actually vote) were dead set against it. One member suggested that we tackle this from a patient safety point of view and bring up the fact that certain doctors doing these procedures just don’t have the training to do it safely. Unfortunately, as we have already found out, slipping into the realm of scope of practice is a non-starter in the state of Virginia. The full text of the decision reads:

18-201 TRUTH IN ADVERTISING

RECOMMENDATION:

Mr. Speaker, your Reference Committee recommends that Resolution 18-201 be not adopted.

RESOLVED, the Medical Society of Virginia supports specifying that “board
certified” must refer to an American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS), American Osteopathic Association Board Certification (AOA), or other boards that maintain similarly high standards of certification.

Resolution 18-201 asks that our Medical Society of Virginia adopt new policy defining specific circumstances under which a physician may refer to himself or herself as “board certified.”