In a bold move to ensure transparency in healthcare, Georgia recently passed the Health Care Practitioners Truth and Transparency Act. This legislation tightens the definition of who can legally present themselves as a “doctor” within our state. Senate Bill 197, which details the Health Care Practitioners Truth and Transparency Act, aims to increase safety by protecting patients from misleading information about their healthcare providers’ qualifications.

As a patient, understanding these legal nuances and knowing how to verify your healthcare provider’s credentials is crucial in avoiding potential medical negligence. In this blog, Bell Law Firm highlights the details of the new law, why it matters for patients, and steps you can take today to protect yourself and your loved ones.

What Does the Health Care Practitioners Truth and Transparency Act Say?

First, the newly passed bill specifically defines who can legally use the title “doctor.” According to Senate Bill 197, only individuals who have earned a doctoral degree in their field and are appropriately licensed can use the term. This includes medical doctors (MDs), doctors of osteopathic medicine (DOs), dentists (DDS or DMD), and other professionals with doctoral degrees, such as psychologists (PhD or PsyD) and optometrists (OD). The law also requires that healthcare providers clearly state their specific qualifications and licensure in any communication with patients.

The Health Care Practitioners Truth and Transparency Act is designed to prevent confusion and ensure patients can make informed decisions about their healthcare. For instance, the belief is that patients will now be better equipped to distinguish between a nurse practitioner with a doctoral degree in nursing and a medical doctor. Understanding the difference means there’s more clarity around each professional’s scope of practice and expertise.

Key Points of the Health Care Practitioners Truth and Transparency Act:

  1. Clear Identification: Healthcare providers must disclose their specific qualifications and licensure.
  2. Restrictions on the Title “Doctor”: Only those with appropriate doctoral degrees and licensure can use the title.
  3. Enhanced Transparency: Improved clarity in provider-patient communication about qualifications.
Why This Matters to Patients

Misunderstandings about a healthcare provider’s qualifications can lead to serious consequences, including misdiagnosis, inappropriate treatments, and even medical negligence. Patients often assume that anyone with the title “doctor” has the same level of training and expertise, which is not always the case. This assumption can result in misplaced trust and reliance in healthcare providers who may not be fully equipped to handle particular medical conditions.

 How to Verify Your Healthcare Provider’s Credentials

To protect yourself and ensure that you are receiving care from a qualified professional, it’s important to verify your healthcare provider’s credentials.

Here’s where you can start:

  1. Check State Licensing Boards: Each state has a medical board that licenses healthcare providers. In Georgia, you can use the Georgia Composite Medical Board’s website to verify a doctor’s licensure and any disciplinary actions taken against them. This resource can confirm whether a provider is authorized to practice in the state and if their license is in good standing.
  2. Verify Educational Background: Ask your healthcare provider directly about their educational background and where they earned their degree. Most providers will have no issue sharing this information. Additionally, many clinics list this information in their staff bios online.
  3. Look for Board Certification: Board certification is an additional layer of credentialing that ensures a doctor has completed specialized training in a specific area of medicine. The American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) provides a searchable database where you can verify a doctor’s board certification status.
  4. Review Online Databases and Reviews: Websites like Healthgrades, Vitals, and the National Provider Identifier (NPI) registry provide information on healthcare providers, including their credentials, patient reviews, and any malpractice history. While reviews should be taken with a grain of salt, they can provide insights into a provider’s practice.
  5. Ask Questions: Don’t be afraid to ask your healthcare provider directly about their experience, training, and areas of expertise. A reputable provider will appreciate your diligence and provide you with the information you need to feel comfortable with their care.
Increasing Patient Safety Across Georgia

The Health Care Practitioners Truth and Transparency Act represents a significant step toward enhancing patient safety and transparency in healthcare. By understanding who qualifies as a “doctor” under the new law and taking proactive steps to verify your healthcare provider’s credentials, you can better protect yourself from potential medical negligence. Your health is one of your most valuable assets, and being informed and vigilant is the best way to safeguard it.

If you or a loved one has been harmed by medical negligence involving any healthcare provider, seeking legal advice from an experienced attorney is the best first step. To request a free consultation from Bell Law Firm, visit our Contact Us page.