Massachusetts consumers soon will be able to search the Net to see if a
dentist has been sued for malpractice or a stylist is cutting hair without
In July, the state's Division of
Registration will post online a detailed database including the license
status and complaint records of more than 800,000 professionals--from
chiropractors to real estate agents and plumbers.
Massachusetts has been on the forefront of digitizing public records.
Physician profiles are already online, including records of paid malpractice
claims and disciplinary actions.
Other states are taking similar steps to increase access to public records
using the Net--such as a trend to put registered sex offender databases
online. North Carolina last week became the
latest state to take up that practice.
But with the wider distribution of local records come increased privacy and
civil liberties concerns because an outdated record or a case of mistaken
identity can be broadcast to the world
or archived in online search engines.
The new Massachusetts site, in the works since last fall, will include
all 32 of the state's licensing boards. Consumers will be able to research
professionals' track records by county or city. One section will provide
applications for licensees to download.
"We're dramatically expanding the services and information we provide to
consumers and the licensees of the boards," William Wood, director of the
Division of Registration, said today.
"Consumers can see if a professional is currently licensed and in good
standing or if the licensee has been disciplined within the past five
years," he added. "If [consumers] are unhappy about the services they get,
they also can download a complaint form."
The state doesn't plan to take complaints online, however, because an array of
personal documents--such as copies of medical records--have to be provided
by the consumer.