Masterfile data are collected on all doctors of medicine (MDs) in the United States who have completed or are in the process of completing requirements to practice medicine. Through the voluntary cooperation of health-related agencies, institutions and organizations, the file includes both members and nonmembers of the AMA and graduates of foreign medical schools who reside in the United States.
Doctors of osteopathic medicine (DOs) who are members of the AMA, have enrolled in or completed residency training programs accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME), or have been licensed by a state licensing authority are also included in the Masterfile. International Medical Graduates (IMGs) are also identified when they obtain a license from one of the US state licensing authorities. As a physician's training and career develop, additional professional certification information is added to his/her Masterfile record.
AMA Credentialing Services generates individual physician records from the AMA Physician Masterfile. These records, known as AMA Physician Profiles, are currently accessible through online purchase and API delivery via AMA Profiles Connect. Profiles can be purchased by and/or delivered to state licensing agencies, hospitals, group practices, managed care organizations, physician recruiters, and other organizations for the purpose of facilitating the credentials verification process. A significant portion of the information that appears within an AMA profile is derived from the following primary sources.
The AMA Medical Student File is distributed periodically. It is updated annually through freshman matriculation, graduation and change of status reports. These data are provided by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). The AMA receives the following student data elements directly from each US medical school:
- Full name
- School address
- Year and place of birth
- Indication as to whether a degree has or has not been received or current enrollment status
- Actual or expected graduation year
AMA also receives graduation reports prepared by the osteopathic schools. Receipt of this medical school information initiates a record within the AMA Medical Student File. A unique record identifier known as the medical education (ME) number is assigned to the record when the student enters medical school and can remain unchanged throughout that individual's career. Students are tracked for the duration of their undergraduate medical education.
Post-graduate medical training programs
An annual cooperative effort between the AMA and AAMC results in the National Graduate Medical Education Census. The census surveys both program and resident data. Approximately 9,800 training institutions accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) receive the electronic survey. Additionally, 239 programs offering medical specialty board-approved, combined specialty programs are surveyed. Survey distribution begins in mid-May with 95% of the responses collected by December.
The survey collects data on more than 145,000 individual residents in graduate medical education (GME) programs and is used to update physician records in the AMA Physician Masterfile. The data collected is the most recent information the AMA has on the individual programs and their respective residents. The census provides the following resident data elements:
- Demographic information to ensure a match
- Year in program
- Post-graduate year
- Status of training (complete vs incomplete)
- Reason for leaving, if applicable
The AMA maintains the sponsoring institution name rather than the clinical site or participating site, and it is this information that appears on an AMA Physician Profile. Training segments not completed at a particular institution will be noted as incomplete on an AMA Physician Profile.
Several recent changes have improved the frequency and quality of the data collected through the survey. Systems have been designed to ensure 100% resolution to all records received from the survey, including unidentified US graduates and IMGs who have not been certified by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG). Quality assurance programs compare the census responses with current Masterfile data to resolve any differences.
State licensing agencies
State licensing agencies issue a total of approximately 45,000 licenses per year. Each of the 68 state medical and osteopathic boards provides data to the AMA on an ongoing basis. Licensure data is obtained on a monthly basis for 72% of the boards while the remaining 28% provide data on a bi-monthly, quarterly, or semi-annual basis. Most state boards provide the following data elements:
- Date the license was initially granted
- Expiration date (approximately 97% of all records have expiration dates)
- Licensure status (active, inactive, denied or pending)
- Licensure type (unlimited, limited or temporary)
Each AMA profile includes a last reported date to reflect the last time that data pertaining to that record was provided to the AMA from the individual licensing board.
State disciplinary actions and federal sanctions
The AMA processes disciplinary action reports received directly from the state medical boards and osteopathic boards into the AMA Physician Masterfile. The AMA receives reports directly from the Department of Health and Human Services in relation to Medicare and Medicaid regulations.
AMA flags the physician's file with a star, which appears on the physician's profile. A record is flagged if a license has been revoked, suspended or surrendered or has a stipulation of a disciplinary nature. For historical purposes, flags are never removed from the AMA Masterfile. More than 500 disciplinary reports are received each month.
While the AMA profile will identify physicians with disciplinary actions, recipients are encouraged to seek the details of disciplinary actions directly from the state or federal agency that took the action.
Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates
Generally, IMGs located in the United States are incorporated into the AMA Physician Masterfile upon entry into an ACGME-accredited program of graduate medical residency training. Background information is supplied to the AMA by the ACGME-accredited programs and by the ECFMG.
ECFMG certification provides assurance to directors of ACGME-accredited residency and fellowship programs and to the people of the United States that graduates of foreign medical schools have met minimum standards of eligibility required to enter such programs. ECFMG certification is also a prerequisite for licensure to practice medicine in most states and is one of the eligibility requirements to take Step 3 of the US Medical Licensing Examination.
The ECFMG applicant identification number that appears in an AMA Physician Profile does not imply current ECFMG certification status. The ECFMG Certification Verification Service can be contacted online.
American Board of Medical Specialties
Physicians certified by member boards of the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS®) are reported to the AMA by the ABMS. The ABMS file provided to AMA includes the following information (as used in the following enumeration, the term certification shall also include certificates of special and/or added qualifications):
- Physician's name
- Name of the certifying board(s)
- Certification or subcertification awarded
- Certificate type
- Date of the original certification
- Subcertification and any recertification
- Date of expiration or revocation of the certification and any recertification
- Maintenance of Certification (MOC) information as appropriate
- Last reported date
Federal Drug Enforcement Administration
The AMA receives the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) file directly from the DEA. All DEA data is received monthly, imported as received and not manipulated in any way. The DEA numbers are processed and matched with AMA Physician Masterfile information to create the AMA DEA cross-reference file, which includes physician name, DEA address, DEA registration/expiration, drug schedule and medical information number. The AMA DEA cross-reference file contains active DEA records only. The DEA never uses a number more than once, therefore, duplicate DEA numbers should not be found within the AMA DEA cross-reference file.