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Date Updated: December 13, 2018

The Referral Process


When to Consider Making a Referral for an Assessment

Assessment can assist medical organizations and physicians with questions about:

  • Appropriateness of decision-making needed for adequate patient management
  • Timing of response to pertinent patient presentations and clinical data
  • Depth and breadth of clinical knowledge necessary to address patient needs
  • Ability to respond to and make appropriate decisions in stressful situations
  • Consistency of care provided
  • Other issues related to patient care management

Medical organizations may also consider a referral for assessment in the following situations:

  • Evaluation of the clinical competence of a physician who has been out of practice for an extended period
  • Identification of educational activities needed to enhance physician practice patterns or assist in career transitions
  • Review of the clinical capabilities of a physician with personal health concerns including recovery from disabling illness or injury, neurocognitive concerns, substance abuse, or other issues that may impact practice

When an Assessment is Not Appropriate

Assessment is not appropriate for physicians with:

  • Current alcohol or drug impairment
  • Unmanaged mental health impairment
  • Obvious, severe cognitive impairment
  • Severe personality/behavior issues ("disruptive physician")*

Assessment does not provide observation or assessment of technical/surgical/ procedural skills.

*Some programs that conduct clinical competence assessments also provide evaluations of "disruptive" physicians.

How to Refer a Physician

Referral for an assessment can occur in many ways. The referring agency, the physician, or the physician's counsel can contact an assessment program to make the referral. It is helpful if information on issues prompting the referral is provided (please refer to: Information Requested When Referring a Physician for Assessment).

Scheduling an Assessment

After receipt of any necessary intake materials and fees, staff at the assessment center will contact the physician to identify and confirm assessment dates.

Deadlines and Timeframes

The time from physician enrollment to the release of the assessment outcome report to the referring agency is generally a 7-9 week process:

  • Allow three to four weeks after the physician submits the required materials to schedule the assessment;
  • The assessment is conducted onsite at the assessment center program and may take one to two days, depending on the physician's specialty and level of assessment required;
  • Allow an additional three to four weeks after the assessment is completed for development of the assessment outcome report.
  • Notify the assessment center of any key dates (deadlines or meetings) as early as possible in the referral process

Encouraging Compliance and a Timely Assessment

In our experience, physician-participants are more likely to contact an assessment program and enroll in an assessment within a timely manner when the referring agency provides them with a written timetable.



For additional information, click here to see the information requested when referring a physician for assessment.

Contact Information

Post-Licensure Assessment System
National Board of Medical Examiners
3750 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104



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