Patient Privacy Protections and the Medical Board of California

At the start of this year’s legislative cycle, a bill related to the Medical Board of California stood out immediately. Senator Melissa Hurtado (D-Fresno) introduced SB 920, a bill that proposes to authorize a Board investigator and a medical consultant to inspect a physician's business location and records, including patient and client records. The bill would provide that in the case where consent of a patient to inspect patient records is not present, the board investigator and medical consultant may inspect records in the office of the licensee for the limited purpose of determining whether good cause exists to seek a subpoena for those records.

The current language and what it intends to do is deeply problematic because it aims to expand the Board’s enforcement capabilities. It bypasses the patient’s right to keep personal health information private and the ability to be notified, and to provide consent, when appropriate. SB 920 in its current form diminishes established privacy laws and protections afforded to patient records. This process would make providers unintended participants in breaking patient confidentiality.

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After review of SB 920, CAP's Public Policy Steering Committee deemed it necessary to voice CAP's opposition to the bill. On March 12, 2022, a formal letter was submitted to Senator Hurtado and the appropriate policy committee chairs, to express CAP's opposition to the bill.

SB 920 is the result of a request by the Board to both Senate President Toni Atkins and Speaker of the Assembly Anthony Rendon as part of their 2022 legislative requests. (See Board letter here.) In their letter, the Board’s proposed changes include requests for a longer waiting period before reinstatement of a revoked or surrendered license, an increase in physicians’ licensing fees, and a lower burden of proof for disciplining doctors.

Aside from the items raised by the Board, Senator Hurtado’s bill expands the Board's power to access medical and pharmacy records without patient consent. SB 920 also gives patients a direct voice in the disciplinary process by allowing patient statements to be included in the adjudication process.   

 

Gabriela Villanueva is CAP’s Government and External Affairs Analyst. Questions or comments related to this article should be directed to GVillanueva@CAPphysicians.com.