Credentialing, Licensure, Certification, Accreditation: What’s the Difference?

Within the medical arena it seems like the terms credential, license, certification, and accreditation are used frequently and interchangeably. As an accrediting body, the AIUM wanted some help in showing and explaining how these terms differ. Luckily credentialing expert Mickie Rops, CAE, agreed to help out. In this post, she explains the differences.aium_accred

  1. Credentialing: Process by which an agent qualified to do so grants formal recognition to and records such status of entities (individuals, organizations, processes, services, or products) meeting pre-determined and standardized criteria. Credentialing is the umbrella term for all the types of programs like the ones that follow.
  2. Licensure: Mandatory process by which a governmental agency grants time-limited permission to an individual to engage in a given occupation after verifying that he or she has met predetermined and standardized criteria. Licenses are typically granted at the state level and have ongoing maintenance requirements. Associations do not grant professional licensure.
  3. Professional Certification: Voluntary process by which a nongovernmental entity grants a time-limited recognition to an individual after verifying that he or she has met predetermined and standardized criteria. Historically association-based programs, many companies (Microsoft, for example) now offer and manage certification programs. Professional certification also has ongoing maintenance requirements.
  4. Accreditation: Voluntary process by which a nongovernmental entity grants a time-limited recognition to an organization after verifying that it has met predetermined and standardized criteria. The focus of accreditation’s assessment is on safe and effective processes and outcomes. Accreditation usually has ongoing maintenance requirements.
  5. Certificates: A training program, class, or session on a focused topic for which participants receive a certificate after completion of the coursework and successful demonstration of attaining the course learning objectives. While certificates may be dated, once they are awarded, they are awarded. There are no ongoing maintenance requirements.

The AIUM is an accrediting body, which means it recognizes practices, not individuals, that meet its published parameters. These parameters are focused on safe and effective processes and outcomes. The AIUM also issues certificates for those who earn CME credits by attending an event, taking a test, or participating in a webinar. These certificates, however, must be submitted to the entity that issues the appropriate licensee, certification, or accreditation.

Do these terms confuse you? What tricks do you use to keep them straight? Have an questions about AIUM Accreditation?  Comment below or let us know on Twitter: @AIUM_Ultrasound.

Mickie S. Rops, CAE, is a credentialing expert who helps organizations make the right credentialing decisions. She can be reached at www.msrops.com or mickie@msrops.com.

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