Arizona Auditor General Highlights Issues with Medical Board's Licensing Policies

By Michael Klazema on 4/9/2015

The Arizona Medical Board has a number of policies and procedures to fix, after a report from the state's Auditor General highlighted a few shortcomings. Specifically, the audit found that the Medical Board was using out-of-date application forms for doctors seeking licenses to practice medicine in the state. In addition, the Auditor General says that the Medical Board has not been properly reviewing doctor credentials before issuing licenses.

The application form issue was easily remedied, and a report from the Arizona Republic states that the Medical Board has already drafted new forms in order to comply with more current regulations. The other issue is part of the vetting process for new license applicants. Arizona state law dictates that the Medical Board must check the credentials for a doctor using a "primary source." The primary source can be a medical school, a hospital where the doctor has worked, or both. The stipulation in the law is that Medical Board officials have to review these primary source documents directly.

Evidently, the Arizona Medical Board was cutting a corner or two in their review of primary source credentials. Instead of obtaining the documents and reviewing them directly, staff members with the Medical Board were using third-party sources, the Arizona Republic specified the American Medical Association, and other state medical board websites, to check doctor credentials. Granted, such sources are fairly high profile themselves, but as the Auditor General noted, using third-party sources widens the margin of error for doctor credential checks, even if only slightly.

Neither of these issues should be tough fixes for the Arizona Medical Board, and any changes made should have a positive effect on the successful screening of medical professionals in the state. This new audit report is not the first bit of scrutiny that the Medical Board has faced recently, though.

On the contrary, last year, Arizona's licensing process for doctors hit an even bigger snag. In 2014, a state law was passed to make sure that every doctor in Arizona, both new and existing, would undergo thorough background checks. Specifically, state legislators wanted the medical board to collect fingerprints from all physicians practicing or hoping to practice in the state. Those prints would then be used to run background checks, both through the state criminal repository, and through the FBI national database. Finally, the state law stipulated that all background check findings would be published on the Medical Board website, as part of individual doctor profiles.

Of course, the FBI is protective of its criminal database anyway, and wasn't about to let Arizona's Medical Board post those findings on the Internet for all to see. As a result, the background law was left in limbo: the Medical Board was still collecting fingerprints and running the checks, but without a fully formed idea of what to do with the information. Ultimately, the legislature amended the bill to eliminate the background check requirement altogether for doctors already licensed in the state. New applicants still have to go through the full state and FBI background check process. Luckily, with the background check law issue corrected, and with the new recommendations from the Auditor General, Arizona's Medical Board should be able to finally settle into a consistent and effective system for vetting new doctors.


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