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Doctor malpractice info online

A new California law will allow Netizens to access information about doctor malpractice online.

If a California-licensed physician or surgeon has been sued for malpractice, disciplined by the state medical board, or terminated from a hospital, Netizens will be able to access that information online, according to a new law.

Gov. Pete Wilson signed legislation yesterday requiring that the Medical Board of California publish data about doctors on the Net. Introduced by Assemblywoman Liz Figueroa (D-Fremont), the physicians' reporting bill includes other provisions and authorizes the board to spend $21,000 during the 1997-98 fiscal year to implement it.

"The main goal was to make sure consumers had as much information as possible to make quality decisions regarding health care for their families," Figueroa said today. "We're very pleased that the needs of consumers are being listened to."

The law mandates the online publishing of any felony convictions of licensees or malpractice judgments reported after January of 1991. Current attorney general accusations will also be listed, as well as information indicating whether a medical license is in good standing. The site will also indicate if a licensee had been disciplined by another state's medical board.

In addition, details about a physician's education and training and the insurance plans accepted by his or her hospitals will be available.

There is already an abundance of online health-related sites geared toward consumers who want to figure out what ails them, find the best insurance policy, or read medical news. But the California law signed yesterday is part of a statewide move to increase disclosure of public records in cyberspace.

The Arizona Board of Medical Examiners also provides links to all state medical boards on the Net and a search engine for determining if a doctor is licensed. Iowa's site, for example, has an online complaint form and detailed information about the licensing process for doctors. Massachusetts provides physician profiles, including records of paid malpractice claims or disciplinary actions.