Virginia Board of Medicine Web Site Excludes Some Disciplinary Information
Virginia's Board of Medicine launched its "long-anticipated" Web site on state doctors last week, but a law signed on July 19 bars the site from posting information about "certain disciplinary actions," the Washington Post reports. The Web site includes information about a doctor's education, hospital privileges, malpractice payments and disciplinary actions taken by other states, but will not post all information about disciplinary actions taken in Virginia. To obtain "complete public disciplinary file[s]," consumers must call, write or email the board with a specific request for the information. The Post reports that the new law demonstrates the "enormous sensitivity" over physician profiles within the medical community. The law was pushed through the Legislature and signed after two "politically influential" medical groups -- the Fairfax and Alexandria county medical societies -- complained that posting "notices," or documents that are issued after a formal investigation, would "unfairly tarnish a doctor's reputation," especially in cases where no final disciplinary action was taken. The law permits only final disciplinary orders against physicians to appear on the Web site.
But the new law may also have the "surprising" effect of allowing consumers who make inquiries to the board to obtain information that was previously kept private. The law states that "other information related to the competency of physicians or podiatrists" and complaints that are never formally investigated should be made available to requesting consumers. Such complaints have "never been public information," health department Deputy Director Robert Nebiker said. State Sen. Warry Barry (R), who sponsored the law, said, "This way, a consumer could call the board and ask about the doctor and they wouldn't give you specifics, but they would say there are nine unfounded complaints of sexual overtures and you could draw your own conclusions" (Boodman, Washington Post, 7/31). The new site is online at www.vahealthproviders.com.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.