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California may require public notice of medical license

By this fall, California physicians may have to notify patients via a waiting-room sign or written statement that the Medical Board of California licenses them. They also may be required to provide patients the board's toll-free phone number and Web site address. Medical board officials say the notice would inform consumers about the agency's existence. Despite news releases, an extensive Web site and outreach to physician and consumer groups, not enough people are aware of the board and what it does, they said. "This is the most efficient way to reach consumers in a very brief, nonconfrontational way," board spokeswoman Candis Cohen said. But the plan doesn't sit well with some physicians, including the California Medical Assn. The physician group opposes the proposed regulation, believing that the state's physicians already inform patients that the medical board licenses them. Doctors typically hang their licenses on the wall, and the state's business and profession code requires them to wear name tags that indicate their status as state licensees. A CMA representative at a January public hearing said the rule would be one more requirement for an already overburdened profession, and that such rules are starting to interfere with the practice of medicine. "It is important for patients to have information to make decisions. We want patients to have information" about their physicians' qualifications and training, CMA spokeswoman Amber Beck said. But, she said, this isn't the way to go about it. Communicating board information Recognizing that not all physicians have waiting rooms and that some, such as anesthesiologists, may not see patients in an office setting, the board in May voted to proceed with a plan that would require physicians to communicate information about the board in one of three ways: * Prominently post a notice in at least 48-point Arial type that states "Medical doctors are licensed and regulated by the Medical Board of California, 800-633-2322, (www.mbc.ca.gov)." The sign must be placed in an area visible to patients where the physician practices. * Put the notice in a written statement that the patient, or patient representative, signs and dates. The paper would stay in the patient's file. * Include the statement on letterhead, discharge instructions or other documents. It would need to be placed above the patient signature line in at least 14-point type. The regulation still faces a July 24 public hearing. The state Office of Administrative Law, which reviews proposals to make sure they comply with six standards, including clarity and necessity, must give its approval before the regulation takes effect. If it becomes a rule, California would join a handful of states with similar requirements, including Georgia and Idaho. Cohen said California's board has been considering the idea for several years, noting that the state's professional business code for nearly a decade has required that state departments propose regulations to inform consumers. The state's licensing boards for optometry, barbering and pharmacology are among those that have regulations. "We anticipated organized medicine's opposition," Cohen said. "It is a point on which we disagree." CMA officials plan to attend the July hearing to oppose the regulation, Beck said. The group is pursuing legislation with the California Society of Plastic Surgeons that would inform patients about physicians' qualifications in a different way. A bill in the California State Assembly would require health care professionals to disclose their license type and highest level of educational degree to patients. Physicians also would have to disclose their board certification. Beck said the legislation is based on policy the CMA house of delegates passed in October 2008 and said it "is one of the things we are looking at to ensure patients have information to make health care decisions." The full and original article can be found here: http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2009/06/01/prsc0601.htm
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