New law makes doctor records available
Vail, CO, Colorado
As of Jan. 1 of this year, physicians in Colorado are subject to new reporting requirements with the purpose of providing greater physician accountability to the public and ensuring greater transparency about physician competence.
Known as the Michael Skolnik Medical Transparency Act, the law was the result of a campaign by the parents of Michael Skolnik, a 25-year-old who died following unsuccessful brain surgery. In a medical malpractice action following their son’s death, the Skolniks claimed that had they known about a prior malpractice action against the neurosurgeon who performed Michael’s surgery, they would have requested another surgeon. While lobbying the Colorado Legislature, the Skolniks asserted that information that might have aided them in making a more informed decision was not readily available and the system then in effect ill-served the public.
Before the new law, the process of investigating physician competence was at best tortured, requiring an almost Herculean effort to comb through multiple databases.
Even then, certain critical information was not always available to the public.
Under the new law, physicians in this state are subject to much more rigorous reporting requirements and the Colorado Board of Medical Examiners, which oversees medical practice in this state, will post the information on a Web site which will be open to the public.
In short, the law broadens the information a physician is required to report on his or her license application and renewals. Further, information that was formerly private or otherwise shielded from public view will henceforth be easily accessible.
Additionally, whereas physician were required to update renewal applications only every two years, the law requires that a report now be made to the state board within 30 days of any event requiring a report.
In addition to basic identifying information, including board certifications and specialties, physicians now must disclose all affiliations with hospitals and other health care facilities. He or she must likewise disclose ownership in any business providing heath-care services or products, however small that ownership may be. A physician must also report any health-care-related employment contracts to which he or she is a party.
Significantly, the law requires that a licensee must report all public disciplinary action and any and all agreements or stipulations, whether with the state board or the licensing authority of any other state or country.
All disciplinary matters must be reported, no matter how long ago the discipline was meted out. Similarly, the applicant must disclose any agreement or stipulation entered into wherein the physician agreed in any way to limit, cease or restrict his or her practice as well as any suspension of his or her license or hospital privileges.
The physician must also report the involuntary relinquishment of his or her Drug Enforcement Agency license. The physician must also report any final judgments, settlements or arbitration awards against him or her arising out of a medical malpractice claim. It is further required of the physician to disclose the denial or refusal of a medical malpractice insurer to provide coverage.
A physician must also report all felony convictions, guilty pleas and “no contest” pleas, however long ago they may have occurred ” even before the time he or she became a physician. This requirement is broad. Not only must a physician report any felony committed in the state of Colorado but so too must he or she report felony convictions in other jurisdictions and also the conviction of any crime which would be a felony under Colorado law.
Not only must criminal pleas and convictions be reported, but so too must the physician report any crime of “moral turpitude,” whether the crime is a felony or not.
Such crimes include assault, menacing, unlawful sexual conduct, fraud, criminal mischief, domestic violence, wrongs to children, wrongs to at-risk adults, prostitution, indecent exposure, criminal invasion of privacy and certain crimes that involve violence, coercion, threats, or cruelty.
The Medical Transparency Act promotes physician accountability and makes available to the public information which may prove valuable in making informed and intelligent decisions. More, the law establishes a central and convenient Web depository where information concerning Colorado physicians may be easily obtained.
Rohn K. Robbins is an attorney licensed before the Bars of Colorado and California who practices in the Vail Valley. He is a member of the Colorado State Bar Association Legal Ethics Committee and is a former adjunct professor of law. He may be reached at 970-926-4461 or at his e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org.