Associations split on congressional move to clarify medical professionals' training

October 1, 2010

There is a battle brewing in Washington by men and women who wear white coats to work. It's a battle over the manner in which non-physicians, such as nurses and nurse practitioners, can market or promote their level of service and expertise, and it has resulted in legislation being introduced in the U. S. House of Representatives.

Key Points

It's a battle over the manner in which non-physicians, such as nurses and nurse practitioners, can market or promote their level of service and expertise, and it has resulted in legislation being introduced in the U. S. House of Representatives.

Backed by the American Academy of Dermatology Association (AADA) and the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery (ASDS), H.R. 5295, the Healthcare Truth and Transparency Act, would make it unlawful for any healthcare professional to make deceptive statements or engage in behavior that misleads patients in advertising and marketing efforts about their level of training.

Derms' endorsement

The AADA and ASDS were among a group of physicians' groups, including the American Medical Association, that signed a letter to the bill's sponsors, Reps. John Sullivan (R-Okla.) and David Scott (D-Ga.), endorsing the measure. The letter said the bill is "an important step toward ensuring that patients have accurate information regarding the education, training, and qualifications of individuals providing their health care services."

"Consumers are often unaware of the differences in, and seek more information about, the qualifications, training, and education of their health care professionals," the bill's text says. "Evidence exists of patient confusion resulting from ambiguous health care nomenclature and related advertisements and marketing products."

The measure says that a nationwide survey conducted in 2008 revealed "the depth of confusion" regarding education, skills and training of healthcare professionals and indicated support for regulating advertising and marketing claims of healthcare professionals. The bill's text did not specify the source of that survey.

Under the bill, it would be unlawful for any person to make any deceptive or misleading statement or engage in any deceptive or misleading act that misrepresents whether that person holds a state healthcare license or the person's education, training, degree, license or clinical expertise. Further, the bill requires any person advertising healthcare services to disclose in the ad the applicable license under which he or she is authorized to provide services. If the bill is enacted, those found guilty of engaging in unfair trade practices could be fined up to $10,000 per violation.