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

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, April 6, 2010

Under the new rule, physicians must provide the notice in one of three ways:

  • Prominently post a sign in an area of their offices conspicuous to patients.
  • Include the notice in a written statement, signed and dated by the patient or patient's representative, and kept in that patient's file.
  • Include the notice in a statement on letterhead, discharge instructions, or other document given to a patient or the patient's representative, where the notice is placed immediately above the signature line for the patient in specified type.

"The three options are designed to serve a multitude of practice settings, including emergency departments, skilled nursing facilities, and surgical settings," according to Candis Cohen, spokeswoman for the Medical Board.

California is not the only state with a posting requirement for doctors. Texas, Kansas, Georgia, and Idaho are among other states that have similar sign rules.

After more than a year in the regulatory process, the new rule stemmed from concerns by some board members and patient advocates that many patients injured by providers seek remedies through lawsuits without notifying the agency that could discipline physicians for that wrongful conduct.

Once the medical board files accusations against misbehaving doctors, they are posted on the medical board's Web site and may serve as a warning for patients who might choose those practitioners for their care.

Last year, one member of the medical board, Woodside plastic surgeon Mary Lynn Moran, MD, said that such signs are required for cabdrivers.

"It should certainly be expected of physicians to let the public know that they are held to a set of standards and regulated by the state," she said.


Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
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