New Study: USMLE Performance Tied to Better Patient Outcomes

Posted:  November 27, 2023

A recent article published in Academic Medicine explores the correlation between examinee performance on the United States Medical Licensing Examination® (USMLE®) and improved patient outcomes. This new research provides additional support for the validity and importance of USMLE’s role in the medical licensure process and the connection between examinee performance and providing safe and effective health care for patients.

The authors conducted a retrospective analysis of nearly 200,000 hospitalizations (with five common inpatient diagnoses) in Pennsylvania over a three-year period with more than 1,750 family physicians and general internists, connecting their USMLE scores with outcomes of in-hospital mortality and length of stay. Results showed that better physician USMLE performance across the series of exams was associated with lower mortality and shorter length of stay.

Prior studies have documented the link between performance on licensing exams and the number of test attempts with other markers of physician competence – demonstrating associations between USMLE and specialty board exam performance, clinical performance evaluations, and ensuing disciplinary actions by state medical boards. In showing higher USMLE performance connects with improved patient outcomes, this study strengthens the evidence that USMLE assesses competencies essential to patient care.

“The USMLE is designed to ensure that licensed physicians have the necessary knowledge and skills to provide safe and effective patient care,” said Alex Mechaber, MD, Vice President, USMLE, NBME. “This latest research further demonstrates the positive correlations between USMLE scores and improved patient outcomes of care,”

For further information about the important and continuing role of independent standardized assessments for medical regulation and the conclusions about trainee/physician performance, read the full paper “The Associations Between United States Medical Licensing Examination Performance and Outcomes of Patient Care” in Academic Medicine.”