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California Docs Must Now Tell Patients Where to Complain About Their Care

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, April 6, 2010

Practicing California doctors now have until June 27 to post signs in their offices or—if they don't have an office—to otherwise notify their patients in writing the name of the licensing agency to call with quality of care complaints.

The new regulation is designed to "inform consumers where to go for information or with a complaint about California medical doctors," according to a statement from the Medical Board of California, the disciplinary and licensing agency for the state's 125,000 doctors.

The wall notification must say, in bold, conspicuous type:

NOTICE TO CONSUMERS
Medical doctors are licensed and regulated by the
Medical Board of California
(800) 633-2322
www.mbc.ca.gov

"The Medical Board's mandate is public protection, and this new requirement will assist patients by directing them to our Web site and our call center, where they can access very basic yet important information about our public services," says Medical Board President Barbara Yaroslavsky. "And it will take very little effort for physicians to comply."

The regulation has been over a year in the making, and is not popular with the California Medical Association, whose officials characterized the proposed rule as one that could erode the doctor-patient relationship.

Any of the state's 125,000 physicians who treat, test, or diagnose patients must comply with the rule.

CMA trustee Ted Mazer, MD, has been an outspoken opponent of the notification rule.

"The effort appears aimed at putting a wedge between patient and physician under the guise of improved consumer education," Mazer says. "Why then only physicians, rather than attorneys and other professionals having to tell new and existing clients in bold print who they should complain to?"

He adds that "if this were an even-handed effort for consumer protection, it would apply across the board, not just to doctors who need their patient's trust rather than suspicion. There are already numerous ways for consumers to find out where to report their concerns about doctors, without starting the relationship with a sign telling them how to report their doctor."

Mazer says "physicians will obviously comply with this poorly conceived regulation, wasting more resources on things that do not improve patient care."

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