If your doctor had fondled a female patient, should they have to tell you when you have an appointment? What about if they had a substance abuse problem? What about if they had been caught chasing a person down the street with a hatchet? Who wouldn't want to be clearly informed of these major violations (aside from the California Medical Association)?
While consumer advocates said every patient should be told, and the CMA, which always protects its doctors over patients, opposed it, the Medical Board hedged its denial on Friday, declining a petition by the nonprofit Consumers Union that would have required physicians to notify patients when they are on probation but acknowledging more needed to be done to inform patients of doctors on probation and pushing for further discussions.
There are about 500 California doctors on probation for offenses including substance abuse, sexual misconduct or medical negligence.
Consumers Union asked that patients be told the doctor’s probationary status when they call to make a medical appointment. When they show up for an office visit, a written disclosure would be signed, and a doctor also would be required to maintain a log of notifications. In addition, a notice would be posted in the doctor’s office as well as any restrictions on the doctor’s practice.
Board members said that the requirement would be redundant, punitive and might affect the doctor-patient relations. They pointed to information on the Medical Board's website, including a verify a license button that has information about a doctor's record, as well as outreach program to get consumers to use the website.
But some board members admited that the website was clunky and even the name "verify a license" was unclear. The site, BreEZe Online License Verification system, forces users to click any number of times, is only in English, is not clear on what a consumer will find and even such basic search functions, like suggesting alternative name spellings if a user misspelled a name, are missing. You can search for John Smith, and you'll have to scroll for pages. It's a search function that could have been built 10 years ago, not one from tech Capitol of the world.
The Board passed a motion to create a taskforce, including consumer advocates, that will try to find the best ways to inform patients about doctors on probation.
*Visit mbc.ca.gov and click on the "Verify a License" to check to see if your physician is licensed and if there are any disciplinary actions or call the board’s consumer line at (800) 633-2322.