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Op-ed: New Yorkers need access to accurate information about doctors

BY ASSEMBLYWOMAN ARAVELLA SIMOTAS

Nydoctorprofile.com is a powerful tool that must be preserved and expanded. It is a searchable database that allows patients to know instantaneously whether their doctor has committed malpractice, lost medical privileges, or has been convicted of a crime. This system protects the reputations of honest doctors while providing patients notice before they engage the services of a doctor with a history of wrongdoing. In recent years, New York State has provided this service at the relatively modest cost of $1.2 million a year. This year, funding for this vital resource is in danger.

For too many New Yorkers and their families, choosing a doctor is a stressful and uncertain process. Healthcare decisions can have tremendous ramifications for patients, their families and their finances. Those needing care often do not know where to turn for reliable information on a chosen physician.

I introduced the Patient Notification Act to ensure that the public has more information, not less. In addition to requiring that doctors provide patients notice of any red marks on their record and be honest in their advertisements, my legislation would enhance nydoctorprofile.com to make it an even more useful and accessible resource.

The Patient Notification Act would require the Department of Health to update individual physician profiles to reflect the most current information. In this day and age, there is no reason why patients searching for a trusted physician should be denied access to records that are both accurate and up-to-date. The technology and infrastructure to carry out this measure already exist, and my legislation would make it a reality.

In addition, the Patient Notification Act would require nydoctorprofile.com to make information about physicians available in languages other than English. New York is one of the most diverse states in America with a long history of welcoming immigrant communities. This service must be available to the many non-English-speaking New Yorkers who already face barriers to accessing this vital information. A limited command of English should not stand between New Yorkers and access to the best possible medical care.

Enactment of the Patient Notification Act would strengthen nydoctorprofile.com and go a long way to helping New Yorkers find qualified care for themselves and their loved ones. If funding is cut for this website, patients will be forced to wander the Internet hoping for honest and reliable information or simply resign themselves to less informed choices about their medical care. A patient seeking medical attention should not be required to navigate multiple, incomplete websites to access information about a particular practitioner and be left to wonder whether their doctor is fully qualified and authorized to provide treatment.

Given the enormous cost associated with medical malpractice, both to the finances and, more importantly, the health of New Yorkers, nydoctorprofile.com is a sound investment.

Nydocotorprofile.com gives patients a central clearinghouse for critical information about their doctors and protects the reputations of the vast majority of physicians who are well qualified and in good standing. This service should be preserved and expanded, not gutted.
Aravella Simotas represents the Astoria area in the New York State Assembly.

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