Thursday, September 1, 2011

American Medical News: Criminal convictions and discipline of Illinois doctors returning online

Profiles were posted on a website for a few years, but a court required the state to remove the information.

Illinois has rejoined the nation's other 49 states in making physician profiles available to the public in some form.

Disciplinary actions, criminal convictions, medical liability payments going back five years and other information on the state's physicians will be provided online by the Illinois Dept. of Financial and Professional Regulation.
A "key to good health is a great doctor, which is why we are ensuring that all of the important information needed to select a physician is online and available 24 hours a day," Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn said after signing the legislation Aug. 9.

Physician profiles went online as part of the state's 2005 comprehensive medical liability reform. But they were removed from the public eye when the Illinois Supreme Court struck down the liability reform in February 2010 because legislation included caps on noneconomic damages.

Under the new law, physicians will have the right to review the information posted about them and will be able to have inaccurate information corrected. Having the opportunity to review and correct information is a positive thing, said Illinois State Medical Society President Wayne V. Polek, MD, an anesthesiologist.

More than 30 states require background checks at licensure for health professionals. "And we encourage patients to confirm information with a physician," he said.

Dr. Polek said physicians are more comfortable with physician profiles than they were five or 10 years ago. But he said one sticking point is putting medical liability claims in the profiles.

"People are sued for a variety of reasons, and they settle for a variety of reasons. For example, an insurance company or employer says you have to [settle]. That information is not necessarily helpful to patients," Dr. Polek said.

ISMS was neutral on the Patient Right to Know Act because it was a stand-alone measure and not part of more comprehensive legislation to extend the state's Medical Practice Act, Dr. Polek said. The act, which governs the practice of medicine in Illinois, is scheduled for sunset repeal on Nov. 30.

The medical society has supported online physician profiles, including those that were part of the 2005 medical liability reform.

With the new Illinois law, all states now make some type of physician profile information available to the public in some form, said the Federation of State Medical Boards.

"We have come a long way," said FSMB President and CEO Humayun J. Chaudhry, DO. "Back in 1996, no boards had physician profiles. State boards recognize the value of physician profiles. We see Illinois as an example of this continuing trend."

How physician profiles are made public varies among states, Dr. Chaudhry said. But the trend is moving toward states making more information publicly available, he said.

Meanwhile, physicians applying for a new medical license in Indiana must pay for and complete a national criminal background check. Under a law that took effect July 1, doctors also must provide fingerprints. More than 30 states require background checks at licensure for health professionals.

Tanya Albert Henry, Posted Aug. 29, 2011.

No comments: