Pennsylvania scrambles to license physician trainees by July 1 after glitches with new online system cause delays

Bugs in Pennsylvania's new electronic physician licensing system have officials at some of the state's biggest hospitals worried about potential staffing shortages come July 1, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

In the eight weeks the electronic system has been up and running, 17 percent of the state's 9,600 physician trainees have been credentialed, according to the report. Medical residents, who typically begin their work year July 1 and make up roughly 20 percent of the state's physicians, cannot practice and study medicine without a license. The process was previously done using U.S. mail.

"No question, patient care would be compromised if any more than a small number are not licensed," said Jeffrey S. Berns, MD, associate dean for graduate medical education and professor of pediatrics at Philadelphia-based Penn Medicine. "It would be chaotic."

The Pennsylvania Department of State, which provides administrative support to the State Board of Medicine, which is responsible for licensing physicians, told the publication the electronic system went through a rocky rollout. However, glitches in the system have been fixed and the state department is now processing 1,400 licensing applications per week.

A State Department official told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette the department is sensitive to the fact residents' careers and livelihoods may be affected by the licensing delays, but said the department has "been responsive" to the ordeal.

A total of 1,600 physician trainee licenses had been issued as of May 10. Of the applications received by the State Department, 530 were sent back to residents because of "discrepancies," such as name changes or insufficient proof of mandated opioid education completion, according to the State Department.

Some residency program coordinators acknowledged to the publication that delays existed in the old licensing process. However, they claimed the digital system's rollout in mid-March came with little warning and eliminated coordinators' ability to review residents' license paperwork before submitting it to the state, the report states.

To access the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report, click here.

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