doctor-probation-20151030The Medical Board of California (MBC) is considering a notification requirement for licensed doctors in the state on probation.  There are roughly 500 such doctors as of 2015. The petition asks the MBC to add to its disciplinary guidelines a new mandated term of probation. Physicians on probation would be required to notify their patients of their probationary status in various ways:

  • that physicians who continue to see patients be required to inform their patients of their probationary status;
  • that patients be notified of the physician’s probationary status when the patient contacts the physician’s office to make an appointment;
  • that this disclosure be required to be in writing and signed at the time of the patient’s appointment by each patient the physician sees while on probation to acknowledge the notice;
  • that this disclosure be posted in the physician’s office in a place readily apparent to patients;
  • that the written disclosures described in #3 and #4 above include at least a one paragraph description of the offenses that led the MBC to place the physician on probation;
  • that the written disclosures include a description of any practice restrictions placed on the physician;
  • that the patient be referred for more details to MBC online documents related to the physician’s probation;
  • that the physician maintain a log of all patients to whom the required oral notification was made. The log should contain the following:
    • patient’s name, address and phone number;
    • patient’s medical record number, if available;
    • the full name of the person making the notification;
    • the date notification was made;
    • a copy of the notification given; and
    • a signed attestation by the patient that notification was received. Respondent shall keep this log in a separate file or ledger, in chronological order, shall make the log available for immediate inspection and copying on the premises at all times during business hours by the board or its designee, and shall retain the log for the entire term of probation.

The Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy division of Consumer Reports, is who filed the administrative petition with the MBC on October 8, 2015 urging it to require doctors who are on probation to notify their patients. “Californians deserve the right to know whether their doctor is on probation for serious misconduct that could jeopardize their health,” said Lisa McGiffert, manager of Consumers Union’s Safe Patient Project. “But right now, most patients have no idea when their doctor has been disciplined and put on probation by the Medical Board.”
The California Medical Association (CMA), which represents the state’s physicians, opposes mandatory notification. “CMA is concerned that a requirement like this would put a burden on the physician-patient relationship and take time away from important patient appointments that are already limited,” said CMA spokeswoman Molly Weedn. “This information is already public and available online and can be accessed by anyone. This is a duplicative burden that will interfere with patient care.”
If the MBC grants the petition, it will not necessarily adopt the proposed terms into its guidelines. Rather, a rulemaking case will be initiated, which would present further opportunity for comments and opposition. If the MBC denies the petition, no further action will be taken.