Calif. Medical Board Rejects Probation Transparency Petition
On Friday, the Medical Board of California voted against requiring doctors on probation to notify patients of their status, the Sacramento Business Journal reports (Robertson, Sacramento Business Journal, 10/30).
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. However, they do not have to inform patients.
Disciplinary information is available online, but many consumers are unaware or forget to check.
Meanwhile, the Medical Board of California urged residents to use the agency's website to determine whether their doctor is on probation (California Healthline, 10/22). 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" (California Healthline, 10/19).
Details of Board Vote
Medical board members raised questions about whether patient notification would be appropriate in all situations, and they worried that language in such notifications might not be understood by all consumers. Board members also expressed concerns about how patients would use the information (Sacramento Business Journal, 10/30).
Board member Randy Hawkins said that requiring doctors to disclose their probation status would "poison the well," adding, "You say that this doctor has done something bad. And this gets in the way of that patient-physician relationship, which will be forever changed based on that information" (Bradford, "KXJZ News," Capital Public Radio, 10/30).
Instead, the board after the vote decided to form a task force to research disclosure requirements, according to board spokesperson Susan Wolbarst.
Meanwhile, Lisa McGiffert -- the safe patient project director at Consumers Union -- noted that the board voted in favor of reviewing the accessibility of its website, which advocates have said is difficult to navigate (O'Neill, "KPCC News," KPCC, 10/30).
Reaction From Consumers Union
McGiffert said, "We're hopeful about moving forward. ... We obviously got their attention, and they seemed to be supportive of salvaging some of the petition" (Sacramento Business Journal, 10/30).
McGiffert added, "I feel like we have an opening to further discussions about getting doctors with the most serious problems to inform their patients" ("KPCC News," KPCC, 10/30).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.