American Medical News
By — Posted June 10, 2013
Maryland, Nevada and Texas are joining about a dozen other states that want to make it easier for patients to identify who on their medical teams are licensed MDs and DOs and who are trained as other allied health professionals.
The three states enacted legislation in 2013 that will require health care professionals in certain settings to wear a photo ID badge that clearly tells patients their name and credentials.
Nevada’s legislation also addresses other truth in advertising concerns that physicians have raised, including when a physician may tell patients they are board certified and how health professionals must identify themselves in advertisements that are printed, electronic or oral.
Efforts on the laws backed by medical societies in the three states were spurred by the American Medical Association’s Truth in Advertising campaign. This “is a significant effort in transparency as we move more and more toward integrated care teams,” said Larry Matheis, executive director of the Nevada State Medical Assn. “The confusion for patients and their families has increased significantly. We want to make sure that all health professionals inform patients and families of patients of who they are and what they are licensed to do.”
The Nevada law, signed by the governor on May 31, goes into effect Jan. 1, 2014.
Under Texas’ new law, physicians and other health care professionals who have direct patient care at a hospital will need to wear a photo ID badge, unless there are isolation or sterilization protocols. The badge must be of “sufficient size” and be visible.
It must clearly state the health professional’s first or last name, title and hospital department. If applicable, it must have the person’s status as a student, intern, trainee or resident.
“Hospitals are confusing enough places to be without having to wonder who’s taking care of you. Starting Jan. 1, Texans will have no question whether that ‘doctor’ in scrubs in their hospital room is an MD or DO — or actually a doctor of nursing practice or doctor of physical therapy,” said Darren Whitehurst, the Texas Medical Assn. vice president of advocacy.
Maryland lawmakers passed a measure that will require licensed practitioners in medical offices and ambulatory care and urgent care facilities to wear badges with their name and license.
Those in solo practices will not be required to wear a badge, and the law makes exceptions if a practitioner’s safety would be jeopardized or if there is a need for a sterile environment.
The badge requirement takes effect Oct. 1 and builds on legislation Maryland passed in 2012 that defined who can hold themselves out to the public as board certified.
“All of the pieces are important, because you have to make sure patients have good information about who is seeing them and who is treating them,” said Gene M. Ransom III, chief executive officer of MedChi, the Maryland State Medical Society. “Just because they are wearing a white coat does not mean they are a physician.”
He said the legislation is an example of what can happen when all facets of organized medicine work together.
The AMA’s Truth in Advertising campaign, launched in 2009, provides background information on the issue and model legislation to assist states in passing laws that help increase clarity and transparency in a system where patients mistake nonphysicians for physicians and sometimes don’t know that a certain specialist is actually a physician.
For example, 21% of 850 adults surveyed nationwide on behalf of the AMA Scope of Practice Partnership in 2010 did not know that a psychiatrist was a physician; another 4% were not sure.
Just 43% of those surveyed knew that an otolaryngologist was a physician; the remaining 57% said the specialist wasn’t a physician or that they were unsure.
When those surveyed were asked if it was “easy to identify who is a licensed medical doctor and who is not by reading what services they offer, their title and other licensing credentials in advertising or other marketing materials,” 44% disagreed with the statement.
NSMA’s Matheis said: “Because so much in the health care system is interstate, I hope we see [truth in advertising] in every state so we begin to roll back the curtain.”