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By Andrew Kleinman, M.D.

It’s a perfect storm, forming a whirlwind of confusion throughout the health care sector. And we may have only days to avoid the tempest.

Unprecedented pressures attempting to drive down costs and push patients away from physicians; a shortage of doctors, sometimes forcing care to the less trained; a surge in the number of nurses, and allied health professionals earning their doctoral degrees. All these factors have combined to cause significant patient confusion.

Americans, according to several studies, are crystal clear that physicians’ years of medical education and training are vital to optimal patient care, particularly in the event of an emergency. And while nurses and other allied health professionals are vital to the health care continuum and help ensure optimal care, the vast majority of those polled believe they should serve in a role that supports doctors’ efforts.

A recent American Medical Association survey determined many patients are uncertain or even confused about the title and education level of individuals who are actively engaged in providing their medical care.

As an example, 44 percent of survey respondents indicate they’ve had difficulty identifying a licensed medical doctor based solely on marketing materials.

New York doctors – represented by professional organizations including the Medical Society of the State of New York – urged Albany legislators to help make it clear, supporting state-level legislation requiring all health care providers to prominently display and identify their specific credentials.

Senate bill S5493 and its Assembly companion, A7889, would clarify in statute a requirement that anyone providing health care services clearly display in the office a document indicating the type of license held. It also would require the wearing of informational badges with large bold lettering that specifies name and type of license held by the practitioner.

Unfortunately, New York’s legislative session is drawing to a mid-June close, so the fix consumers deserve could be put off for another year.

The answer is simple – anyone who benefits from confused consumers and profits by not making it clear. And unfortunately, there are many.

Andrew Kleinman, M.D., is president of the Medical Society of the State of New York.