Ensuring high-quality patient care: the role of accreditation, licensure, specialty certification and revalidation in medicine

Med Educ. 2014 Jan;48(1):75-86. doi: 10.1111/medu.12286.


Context: The accreditation of medical school programmes and the licensing and revalidation (or recertification) of doctors are thought to be important for ensuring the quality of health care. Whereas regulation of the medical profession is mandated in most jurisdictions around the world, the processes by which doctors become licensed, and maintain their licences, are quite varied. With respect to educational programmes, there has been a recent push to expand accreditation activities. Here too, the quality standards on which medical schools are judged can vary from one region to another.

Objectives: Given the perceived importance placed by the public and other stakeholders on oversight in medicine, both at the medical school and individual practitioner levels, it is important to document and discuss the regulatory practices employed throughout the world.

Methods: This paper describes current issues in regulation, provides a brief summary of research in the field, and discusses the need for further investigations to better quantify relationships among regulatory activities and improved patient outcomes.

Discussion: Although there is some evidence to support the value of medical school accreditation, the direct impact of this quality assurance initiative on patient care is not yet known. For both licensure and revalidation, some investigations have linked specific processes to quality indicators; however, additional evaluations should be conducted across the medical education and practice continuum to better elucidate the relationships among regulatory activities and patient outcomes. More importantly, the value of accreditation, licensure and revalidation programmes around the world, including the effectiveness of specific protocols employed in these diverse systems, needs to be better quantified and disseminated.

MeSH terms

  • Accreditation*
  • Career Mobility
  • Certification*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Education, Medical / standards
  • Global Health
  • Humans
  • Licensure*
  • Motivation
  • Quality of Health Care / standards*
  • Specialization / standards*
  • United States