Graduate medical education programs and residents should be getting used to change by now. Last year, the ACGME introduced the Next Accreditation System, and then eight months later, it announced it was developing a unified accreditation system with the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) and the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine (AACOM), and that AOA and AACOM would become part of ACGME. The “merger” and subsequent unified accreditation system for graduate medical education programs could happen as early as July 2015.
Having one unified system is a mixed blessing for those affected by the change. On the one hand, both allopathic and osteopathic physicians will prepare for practice in the same way and be evaluated in the same way. On the other hand, it has raised questions among osteopathic physicians regarding how a unified accreditation system will affect osteopathic training, which is based on treating the whole patient, rather than treating just one part of the patient when eradicating disease. A unified system may be beneficial to hospitals’ Medicare GME reimbursements for training residents, but may be problematic for residents who find themselves “displaced” because of the Medicare GME funding cap or because their program has closed.
An article by Mintz's Nili Yolin, “The Future of GME Accreditation,” published by the American Health Lawyers Association, provides in-depth analysis of the unified accreditation system and how it may affect teaching hospitals, academic medical centers, and allopathic and osteopathic residency programs.