Radiologists spend $14,680 on certification over a 30-year career, topping most specialties

Radiologists spend about $14,680 on certification over the course of a 30-year career, one of the highest totals among medical specialties, according to a report released Wednesday.

Such costs can range anywhere from $440 for a family nurse practitioner to $27,720 for a prosthodontist. Among other member entities of the American Board of Medical Specialties, radiology’s total exceeds professions such as pathology ($7,100) or orthopedic surgery ($11,165).

The findings are part of a new report out of the American College of Radiology’s Task Force on Certification, issued Nov. 18. ACR established the group back in early 2019 amid concerns from its members about American Board of Radiology and changes to the format and content of its exams.

ACR pinpointed high fees for the board’s services as one of the chief complaints among its members. Resident and fellows must pay $640 a year or about 1% of their income, on top of large student debt loads. ABR, meanwhile, had total assets of $42.6 million and revenue of $14 million in 2018, but hasn’t made its detailed budgets public, this week’s report noted.

“We acknowledge there is a cost of doing business and reserves are necessary but increased transparency and cost effectiveness are encouraged,” the authors wrote.

ACR made several recommendations to the Board of Radiology and emphasized that it is “eager to collaborate with the ABR to help effect reform.” Along with transparency, those include prioritizing communication, offering diplomates questions that are more relevant to their practices, sponsoring independent research on the validity of its exams, and minimizing certification costs. The college task force also suggested involving stakeholders in ABR governance, reevaluating specialty-specific pathways, and increasing diversity among executive boards.

The American College of Radiology also issued a resolution back in May, challenging the nonprofit doc-certification group’s alleged secrecy and “power imbalance.” For more on the ongoing controversy, you can read this April feature story from Radiology Business Journal.

In a statement issued late Thursday, ABR said it "welcomes" the task force's perspectives, and it will continue to seek guidance from a "diverse set of stakeholders." 

"We have made many improvements over the past few years, and look forward to further enhancements in our programs as we work to ensure that our diplomates demonstrate the requisite knowledge, skill and understanding of their disciplines to the benefit of patients," said Board of Governors President, Vincent Mathews, MD.