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AMA: Patients Lack Education on Physician Credentials

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, January 26, 2011

Several states, including California, Arizona and Illinois, are now enacting legislation that would prohibit misleading and deceptive advertising by healthcare professionals.

For example, California's new law, a physician may not use the term "board certified" in any advertising unless the full name of the certifying board is also used and given comparable prominence with the term "board certified" in the statement.

The issue arose after a number of physicians and other practitioners were discovered to have been using the term board certified to advertise surgical practices such as cosmetic procedures when they were not board certified in surgery.

Among the survey's other findings:

• Only 75% of patients think that a psychiatrist is a medical doctor, with 21% saying no and 4% unsure. However, 41% believe that a psychologist is an M.D.

• 26% of survey respondents think a nurse practitioner is a medical doctor and 19% believe that a physical therapist has physician training and credentials.

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