THE AMERICAN BOARD OF PATHOLOGY

A Member Board of the American Board of Medical Specialties

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Extension of the Practice Pathway for Certification in Clinical Informatics

 Rationale and Background Information

 

In March 2022, the American Board of Pathology announced that the experience pathway for qualifying to sit for the Clinical Informatics certification examination would be extended to 2025.

The COVID-19 pandemic derailed countless projects at many institutions, including the accreditation of new fellowship programs. To date, there are only 10 ACGME accredited Pathology programs in Clinical Informatics, although there are others overseen by the American Board of Preventive Medicine. The first two Pathology Clinical Informatics fellowship programs were accredited by ACGME in 2015. Thereafter, there was a slow, but steady accreditation of 1-2 programs/year, until the COVID-19 pandemic (Figure). The two programs that were accredited in 2020 were accredited in April, which means the new program submission materials were provided in 2019. In short, Pathology Clinical Informatics program building understandably came to an abrupt halt during the pandemic. There are a substantial number of unaccredited Clinical Informatics fellowship programs, which are held to the same high standards as ACGME-accredited programs with respect to curricular content, faculty oversight requirements, and the Clinical Informatics board-certification requirement for program directors, that need additional time to obtain ACGME accreditation.

 

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Figure. Number of Clinical Informatics Programs Accredited by ACGME per Year

In 2021, there were 30 candidates that demonstrated substantial experience to qualify for the Pathology Clinical Informatics examination via the by experience pathway, compared with five individuals who completed a Clinical Informatics fellowship. The average age of individuals applying through the by experience pathway was 44 years (Range: 34-60 years), whereas the average age of individuals applying after a Clinical Informatics fellowship was 35 years (Range: 32-37) (p=0.0042). Closing the “by experience” pathway, which was hindered by the COVID-19 pandemic, would be non-inclusive and discriminatory to more senior candidates with adequate qualifying workplace experience, and would deny the pathology community of additional individuals with board certification in Clinical Informatics.

The American Board of Pathology rigorously reviews the qualifications of every pathology candidate and does not offer the opportunity to attempt a certification examination without appropriate training, experience, or both. The review and adjudicative processes used by the American Board of Pathology to evaluate Clinical Informatics candidates are independent of the committee and process in place by the American Board of Preventive Medicine, which evaluates Clinical Informatics candidates for diplomates other than the specialty of Pathology. The qualification criteria and acceptance process in use, in tandem with the use of current industry-standard level-setting psychometric validation processes for the examination itself, ensures that successful diplomates possess a satisfactory and consistent level of Clinical Informatics domain knowledge and extensive clinically relevant practice experience, independent of either year of examination or method of preparation.

The American Board of Pathology continues to support certification exams in practice areas critical to pathology, even those with only a few candidates each year. This extension allows for the continued growth of the very small but important sector of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine. The Clinical Informatics community can rest assured that new diplomates in Pathology Clinical Informatics are equally qualified as those who already hold this certification status. This continued partnership with the Clinical Informatics community and extension of the by experience pathway should expand the overall pool of superbly trained and board-certified clinical informaticians. The American Board of Pathology is supportive of the establishment and accreditation of additional programs in Clinical Informatics in Pathology and believes the extension of the “by experience” pathway simply returns the time and opportunity, which was lost during the pandemic, to institutions interested to continue to grow in this direction.

 

 

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