Meeting ACGME Standards Under a Unified Accreditation System: Challenges for Osteopathic Graduate Medical Education Programs

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In 2014, the American Osteopathic Association (AOA) and the American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) to create a unified accreditation system for graduate medical education (GME) under the ACGME. The AOA will cease to accredit GME programs on June 30, 2020. By then, AOA-accredited programs need to apply for and achieve ACGME initial accreditation. The terms of the MOU also made it advantageous for some formerly nonteaching hospitals to establish AOA programs, chiefly in primary care, as a step toward future ACGME accreditation.

In transitioning AOA programs to the ACGME system, hospitals with osteopathic GME can expect to encounter challenges related to major differences between AOA and ACGME standards. The minimum numbers of residents for ACGME programs in most specialties are greater than those for AOA programs, which will require hospitals that may already be at their federal caps to add additional residency positions. ACGME standards are also more faculty- and staff-intensive and require additional infrastructure, necessitating additional financial investments. In addition, greater curricular specificity in ACGME standards will generate new educational and financial challenges.

To address these challenges, hospitals may need to reallocate resources and positions among their current AOA programs, reducing the number of programs (and specialties) they sponsor. It is expected that a number of established and new AOA programs will choose not to pursue ACGME accreditation or will fail to qualify for ACGME initial accreditation.

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