California Healthline Daily Edition

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Group Pressures Medical Board of Calif. on Probation Transparency

Consumers Union has filed an administrative petition calling on the Medical Board of California to require physicians on probation to notify patients of their status, the Sacramento Business Journal reports.

A public hearing on the issue is expected for Oct. 30.

Background

According to the Business Journal, the board regulates more than 130,000 physicians with active California licenses, and nearly 500 are on probation.

Disciplinary action can be taken for various reasons, including:

  • Repeated gross negligence;
  • Substance misuse; and
  • Sexual misconduct.

Physicians are required to notify hospitals and malpractice insurers when they are placed on probation, the Business Journal reports. However, they do not have to inform patients.

Disciplinary information is available online, but many consumers are unaware or forget to check, according to the Business Journal.

The medical board in 2012 recommended that doctors on probation be required to inform their patients, but the proposal was rejected. Now, the board is planning a public relations effort to encourage patients to verify their physicians' medical licenses and check their disciplinary records online, the Business Journal reports.

Board spokesperson Cassandra Hockenson, who declined to speak about the petition, said, "Our feeling is consumers need to be proactive and check information about their doctor" (Robertson, Sacramento Business Journal, 10/15).

Details of Petition

Consumer Union's petition noted that research has found that physicians on probation are more likely to be disciplined in the future, compared with those who have not been sanctioned by the board (Consumers Union release, 10/8).

Lisa McGiffert, manager of Consumers Union's Safe Patient Project, said "A lot of people have the impression it's a minor thing to be on probation, but these are not minor issues." She added, "A small group of doctors get into trouble, but those who do should tell patients" (Sacramento Business Journal, 10/15).

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