App to Alert Californians When Physicians Are Disciplined

Alicia Ault

July 27, 2018

Californians can now get almost instantaneous notice when a physician's license has been suspended or revoked or when some other disciplinary action has been taken against a doctor.

The notice, which will come via an app, was unveiled by the Medical Board of California at a news conference on July 26. The board developed the app to build on a 2-year-old public information campaign that has been encouraging consumers to keep tabs on their physicians by periodically checking the board's website.

Now, any state resident with an iPhone or iPad can install the free app and receive push notifications on physicians they choose to "follow." Users can follow as many as 16 physicians at once.

"The first of its kind, the app is an innovative new tool that will revolutionize the way consumers receive and use information from the board about their doctor so that they can make informed decisions about their care," said Denise Pines, vice president of the Medical Board of California, at the briefing.

No other state medical board offers users such an instantaneous way of tracking their physicians' licensure, but California is encouraging others to follow its example.

Notice Goes Out on Order Date

Once the app is installed, users click on it to bring up the board's homepage and search for physicians by name or license number. They then select doctors they want to keep tabs on, and the names are added to their follow list.

Every time a license expires, or the practice address changes, or some form of disciplinary action is taken, the consumer will receive a notification either through a banner announcement on the phone if the user allows the notifications or by a number in a circle appended to the app's icon (it looks similar to when a text message has been received).

If the app is allowed to run in the background, it will fetch information two to three times a day.

Kimberly Kirchmeyer, the board's executive director, said that app users will be receiving notice of a suspension, revocation, or disciplinary action long before the action goes into effect. Typically, a medical board and a physician will sign an order of agreement a month or longer before the action is effective.

"This app is going to be sending out information on the ordered date, so that actually in some instances will occur up to 30 days prior" to the suspension or revocation, said Kirchmeyer. "So even if there's no change to the license for 30 days, it's going to notify you," she said, adding, "that's the best part about this application."

Sean Eichelkraut, an information systems branch manager at the board who developed the app, said that any new information about the license could arrive on a user's phone "within minutes to within an 8-hour period."

The app is currently only available for Apple iOS but will soon be available for Android operating systems.

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