California Medical Board's free app helps consumers track doctors' license status, discipline

By Dave Muoio
Calfornia's doctor license status app

Editor's note: This story has been updated with comments from the Medical Board of California regarding the app and its criticisms from a consumer advocacy group.

Last week, the Medical Board of California that aims to help consumers more easily learn of any changes to a practitioner’s license status, location of practice, or other records made available by the organization.

Of note, users of the free app tool can follow up to 16 providers and receive automatic notifications whenever a license is updated, according to the Medical Board. This includes the posting of administrative actions and enforcement documents associated with a specific doctor’s profile, such as when a practitioner has had their license suspended, revoked, or placed on probation.

“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,” Kimberly Kirchmeyer, executive director of the Medical Board of California, said in a statement announcing the launch.

Development of the app began in late 2017, according to a statement, and employs the Department of Consumer Affairs’ license search interface. All consumers can still find information about a California practitioner’s license through the Medical Board’s website or by ing the organization.

"Development of a mobile app was a priority of the Board, as outlined in the Board’s current strategic plan," the Board told in an email statement. "The Board estimates that 30 percent of its website traffic comes from mobile devices. Of those devices, approximately 70 percent are iPhones and iPads, making development of the app for Apple devices the logical first choice. However, the Board will be working on the development of an android app in the very near future."

While the state’s board said that it has developed the new tool as an additional source of healthcare transparency, Consumer Watchdog — a nonprofit organization that has been petitioning the Medical Board to extend its notices to include patient complaints and ongoing investigations — the same day arguing that the digital tool does not adequately address larger consumer awareness concerns.

"An app makes a nice PR 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,” Carmen Balber, executive director of Consumer Watchdog, said in a statement. “It's time to shelve the marketing strategy for a simple cost-effective solution: require doctors to inform patients in person if they have been disciplined for misconduct or causing patient harm.”

In a responding statement, the Board highlighted its other ongoing consumer awareness efforts, such as a subscriber alert service and its social media channels. The organization also highlighted its support of a probation notification bill in the California Senate that, currently, would require doctors to inform their patients if they had been placed on probation by the Board "for sexual abuse, misconduct, or relations with a patient; drug or alcohol abuse directly resulting in harm to patients or to the extent that such use impairs the ability of the licensee to practice safely; a criminal conviction involving harm to patient safety or health; or inappropriate prescribing resulting in harm to patients," the Board wrote to