In California, a new app aims to keep patients up-to-date on physician misconduct

A new smartphone app will alert patients in California about changes to their physicians' licensing status — whether that means a change of address or an incident of misconduct.

The app, developed by the Medical Board of California and released July 26, aims to help inform patients who are making decisions about their healthcare providers.

Patients who download the app can track up to 16 physicians in the state. The app pulls data from the California Department of Consumer Affairs' license search interface and notifies users when there's an update to one of their physicians' licenses.

These updates might involve a change to a name or address, an added specialty, or a disciplinary action by the Medical Board of California.

The product marks the first-ever license alert app developed by a medical board, according to the Medical Board of California. It builds on the organization's existing efforts to educate patients on physician licensing, which patients can still look up online through the board's website.

"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," the board's executive director Kimberly Kirchmeyer said in a July 26 news release.

Not all advocacy organizations support the new app. In a July 27 statement, Consumer Watchdog argued that rather than focusing on an app, the Medical Board of California should require physicians to disclose to patients — in person — whether they have been disciplined for misconduct or patient harm.

"An app makes a nice [public relations] splash, but 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,” said Carmen Balber, executive director of the progressive nonprofit.

The free app is available for download on Apple's App Store. A version for Android smartphones is forthcoming, according to the Medical Board of California.

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