A new Missouri state law that recently went into effect allows patients greater access to information about their physicians and gives power to the state's medical regulation board to more quickly take away doctor's licenses to practice. Supporters believe that the increased access to data will allow patients to make informed decisions about which doctors to go to and reduce the number of medical malpractice incidents in Missouri.

Among the most important aspects of the new law is a new website and telephone number that patients can use to look up information about a physician licensed to practice in Missouri. Data available to patients for the first time includes where a doctor went to medical school, whether he or she has been properly certified to practice in a particular specialty, and whether he or she has ever had his or her practice limited by a court order. The information for accessing the new database is available in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch article linked below.

The new law also directs the Missouri Board of Professional Registration for the Healing Arts, which oversees licensing of physicians, to conduct a hearing and order tests if it has reason to believe a doctor is incompetent or suffering from mental illness or an addiction. Any doctor who fails the tests will be subject to discipline by the board. Previously, cases of possible incompetence were directed to the state administrative hearing commission, a process that often took several years to resolve.

Patient advocates praised the new law. A police analyst at Consumers Union said that having the state tell patients more than simply whether a doctor is licensed will help protect patients from being victimized by malpractice by ineffectual or fraudulent doctors.

Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "Missouri patients can now find out more about their doctors," Jeremy Kohler, Sep. 9, 2011