Healthcare News & Insights

‘Truth in Advertising’ legislation for providers growing in popularity

Thanks to the American Medical Association’s (AMA) Truth in Advertising campaign, 25 states have introduced legislation that’ll require healthcare providers to clearly and honestly state their level of training, education and licensing. 

One of the main purposes of the legislation is to eliminate patient confusion. And so far, 12 states have passed regulations that require healthcare professionals to wear ID badges with their credentials on them. The legislation also requires providers to list their experience in marketing materials, according to the AMA.

Nonphysician providers play a vital role in our healthcare system, but patients have a right to know if the person treating them is a MD (Doctor of Medicine)/DO (Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine) or a PC-A (physician assistant). A white coat isn’t enough nowadays to make the distinction.

Point of contention

One area of controversy is whether it’s ok for a nonphysician provider with a PhD (Doctor of Philosophy) to be called “doctor.” If the nonphysician provider doesn’t have an MD or OD, many believe the title of “Dr.” shouldn’t be used.

“Patients deserve transparency in health care,” said Dr. Steven Stack, MD, AMA Board of Trustees Chair, in an American Medical News report. “To provide the clarity necessary for patients to make informed decisions about their health care, the AMA supports Truth in Advertising legislation to help patients understand the level of education and training of the health care professionals providing their care.”

In fact, 92% of adults believe that only licensed MDs or DOs should use the title “physician,” according to a 2012 AMA survey of 801 adults nationwide. And 87% said they’d support legislation that required all healthcare advertising material to state the level of education, skills and training a provider had.

The American Academy of Physician Assistants (AAPA) hasn’t taken a stand yet on the AMA’s campaign. However, most states have laws that require PAs to identify themselves accurately to patients.

States with legislation

Pennsylvania was one of the first states to adopt this legislation in 2010, which requires healthcare professionals to wear photo ID badges that state their credentials in large, bold letters. And currently the law is going through the regulatory process with the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

Louisiana approved the legislation ensuring patient care disclosure in 2012. Now under the law, providers who identify themselves as “Dr.” either verbally or in writing to patients must give them their credentials, too.

Mississippi’s state medical association got its Truth in Advertising legislation signed into law in 2012. Mississippi’s law requires healthcare professionals to post their credentials in their office and physicians to post their credentials in the office of any mid-level provider with whom they have a collaborative agreement.

Utah’s Truth in Advertising legislation was approved in 2011. It requires anyone who advertises healthcare services and isn’t an MD or a DO to list licensure type in the ad — and acronyms aren’t allowed.

The goal of the legislation, no matter what state, is to create transparency among healthcare providers and remove any possible confusion for patients.

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