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Industry Stakeholders Divided on GA 'Truth and Transparency' Act

Analysis  |  By Melanie Blackman and John Commins  
   May 25, 2023

Physician leaders and advanced practice nurses have different opinions on the Health Care Practitioners Truth and Transparency Act taking effect in Georgia on July 1.

Georgia Senate Bill 197—the "Health Care Practitioners Truth and Transparency Act," signed into law this month by Gov. Brian Kemp and taking effect on July 1—requires clinicians to include in their advertising their names and licenses they hold for specific services.

The law also prohibits use of the title "doctor" by nonphysicians in clinical venues. Advanced practice nurses and physician assistants with doctorates who identify themselves as "doctors" must make it clear in their ads that they are not a medical doctor or a physician. Georgia clinicians who violate the new law risk disciplinary action from their respective professional credentialing boards. 

The new law has been endorsed by major physicians' associations, including the American Medical Association, which said the law complements the association's efforts to "vigorously defend the practice of medicine against scope of practice expansions by nonphysicians that threaten patient safety." 

"Georgia's legislature passed SB 197, the Health Care Practitioners Truth and Transparency Act, which strengthens Georgia's truth in advertising law and increases health care transparency in the state," the AMA wrote in a blog post.

The American Society of Anesthesiologists sent out a press release congratulating Gov. Kemp in signing Senate Bill 197 into law, earlier this month.

"This new law makes it clearer for patients to make informed decisions because they know the qualifications of the professional providing their care. Every patient deserves to be certain of exactly who is performing and responsible for their care during a procedure or surgery," ASA president, Michael W. Champeau, MD, FAAP, FASA, said in a statement.

Advanced practice registered nurses had asked Kemp not to sign the bill, arguing that it isn't needed.

"Let me be very direct here…… WE already do this!!," Dr. Lisa Reyes-Walsh DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, PMHNP-BC, CARN-AP, wrote in a LinkedIn post.

"We need to start asking different questions and come together to solve healthcare-stop this nonsense of trying to divide the healthcare system," she wrote.

"I am extremely disappointed in GA's legislators calling out NPs and PAs only," she told HealthLeaders.

Likewise, April Kapu, DNP, APRN, ACNP-BC, FAANP, FCCM, FAAN, president of the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, questions the need for the bill. 

"A strength of today's healthcare workforce is the growing number of healthcare providers with doctoral preparation," Kapu told HealthLeaders. "More than a dozen health professional disciplines—including nurse practitioners, pharmacists, physical therapists and psychologists—are educated at the doctoral level. That depth of preparation and knowledge should be welcomed and embraced by all in the health care space."

"We support the use of the title doctor in conjunction with licensure title for doctorally-prepared nurse practitioners and other health care providers in the clinical setting," she said. "AANP believes patients have the right to know who is providing their care, which includes the academic preparation of those individuals."

Carmen Kavali, MD, founding member of the Georgia Alliance for Patient Protection and Secretary for the Medical Association of Atlanta, says she's "ecstatic" that the bill she helped write is now law.

"(This) gives Georgia the most comprehensive policy in the nation to ensure clarity for patients regarding healthcare credentials. There should be no room for confusion when it comes to informed consent or patient choice," Kavali told HealthLeaders. "Uninformed choice leads to unintended consequences.  Informed consent can only be given by a patient who understands exactly who is treating them, in addition to the care being given."

"Some may question the need for this law, but it's clear that patients are confused by healthcare titles and credentials," Kavali said. "In a survey done a few years ago by the AMA, 39% of patients thought a Doctor of Nursing Practice was a physician and 11% weren't sure. Half were either completely wrong or confused by a title. More than half (61%) thought a Doctor of Medical Science was a physician, which is completely incorrect."

Kavali also said the law goes further than clarifying healthcare titles for patients.

"It also clarifies training and specialization," she said. "For instance, you might search online for healthcare options and find someone who 'specializes in dermatology.' You would likely assume that person is a dermatologist, based on that language. In some cases, you'd be wrong, as the person listed isn't a physician at all."

Kavali added there is no reason for any appropriately credentialed clinician to oppose the new law.

"Every clinician will be able to accurately state their licensure, which is consistent with the board overseeing their credentialing," she said. "This law demands accuracy regarding licensure, which provides clarity to patients."

Related: GA Gov. Signs Law Banning 'Medical Title Misappropriation'

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