Senate committee focuses on disclosure of physicians’ probation status

The Senate Business, Professions and Economic Development Committee recommends that patients are notified when their physician is placed on probation.

The committee is conducting its sunset review of the Medical Board of California and is recommending a change to legislation to ensure patient safety.

Last year, Senator Jerry Hill introduced SB 1033 which would have required physicians to inform patients when they had been put on probation by the Medical Board. The bill did not pass after 12 senators abstained from voting.

Now Sen. Hill, who chairs the committee, may manage to change the current law.

Currently, physicians are not required to disclose their probationary status to their patients. Patients are able to look up their physicians’ status on the Medical Board’s website. However, some critics believe that the current system does not protect patients.

The committee’s background paper argues that the Medical Board’s current online database is not readily accessible or known to patients, especially older and vulnerable patients. About 40 percent of adults 65 and older do not use the internet at all, according to Pew Research Center. This group is also most likely to seek healthcare.

A 2008 study conducted by the California Research Bureau found that physicians who received sanctions were likely to receive future sanctions.

The Medical Board does not support the proposed change, arguing that it would harm the physician-patient relationship and would cause mistrust.

There are currently 635 physicians are probation in California. Physicians can be placed on probation for a variety of reasons, including inappropriate prescribing, drug or alcohol use, sexual misconduct with patients, and negligent care. Physicians can still see patients while on probation, generally with conditions and restrictions.

The committee recommends that the law that allows the Medical Board to oversee doctors should be amended to ensure that patients receive notification of their physician’s probationary status and the Medical Board makes information on its website more accessible and transparent.