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California Medical Board Creates a Mobile App for Doctor Discipline

The California Medical Board has rolled out an mHealth app enabling users to get instant updates on their doctors' license status, including disciplinary issues and new specialties.

Source: ThinkStock

By Eric Wicklund

- California residents can now use an mHealth app to find out if their doctors have been disciplined – or if they’ve moved.

Touting itself as “the first American board in the nation to utilize such technology to notify parents about their doctors,” the Medical Board of California has launched a mobile health app that allows users to check on license status changes for up to 16 doctors.

“The board is incredibly excited about the app and believes it takes great strides in meeting the board’s mission of consumer protection and enhancing transparency to consumers,” Kimberly Kirchmeyer, the board’s Executive Director, said in a press release.

The free app, available on the Apple Store (an Android version is in the works), sends an update whenever the board disciplines a doctor on a user’s customized list. It also offers updates whenever a selected doctor changes his or her name or address or adds certifications, such as a new specialty.

Sean Eichelkraut, the medical board’s ISB Manager, says the digital health platform has been in planning for several years; in the past, users would have to register to access an online search tool to research certain doctors, while the board would send out e-mail blasts for all disciplinary actions.

Eichelkraut said the key ingredient to the online resource is the state Department of Consumer Affairs’ newly launched license search interface.

“That kind of gave us the last pieces we needed to put this all together,” he said in a recent podcast.

The consumer-facing, customized mobile app is the first of its kind in the nation. Each state’s medical board maintains an online database of its doctors and any disciplinary actions or status changes, but only certain information is available to the public.

Some information is available through the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB), which has maintained an online log (docinfo.org) since 2001 that lists states where a doctor is licensed and where he or she has faced discipline, but not any specific details. The Association of State Medical Board Executive Directors also manages an online database called Docfinder, but that site includes only 36 states and the District of Columbia.

Not everyone is pleased with the California Medical Board’s move to make doctor data mobile-friendly.

On the same day that the app was unveiled, Consumer Watchdog released a statement calling it a “nice PR splash,” and saying the board isn’t doing enough to make doctor discipline transparent.

“It won't improve transparency for the vast majority of Californians who don't know they can look up their doctor in the first place,” Carmen Balber, the group’s Executive Director, said. “It's time to shelve the marketing strategy for a simple cost-effective solution: require doctors to inform patients in person if they have been disciplined for misconduct or causing patient harm.”

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