Our healthcare and business law firm works with many physician and other health care providers who own their own medical practice. The Georgia Medical Board and Georgia Legislature, as well as many other state medical boards and legislatures, have noted concern with consumer confusion with the numerous titles held by non-physician health care practitioners. For instance, “In a survey done a few years ago by the AMA, 39% of patients thought a Doctor of Nursing Practice was a physician and 11% weren’t sure. Half were either completely wrong or confused by a title. More than half (61%) thought a Doctor of Medical Science was a physician, which is completely incorrect.” M. Blackman, J. Commins, “Industry Stakeholders Divided on GA ‘Truth and Transparency’ Act,” Health Leaders Media (May 25, 2023). This and other information caused the Georgia Legislature to act in an attempt to protect consumers from misunderstandings. That change resulted in Senate Bill 197, known as the Health Care Practitioners Truth and Transparency Act, which was signed into law in May of 2023. The bill made changes to the “Consumer Protection and Awareness Act,” O.C.G.A. Section 43-1-33. Importantly, the legislatures concern here seemed to arise less from intentional or malicious misstatements from health care practitioners, and more from consumer misinformation/misunderstanding caused honestly by the numerous titles and credentials that may be held by practitioners that consumers do not understand.
This post identifies three key provisions with the Health Care Practitioners Truth and Transparency Act. If you have questions regarding this blog post or would like to speak with counsel regarding laws that may impact you or your medical spa practice, you may contact us at (404) 685-1662 (Atlanta) or (706) 722-7886 (Augusta), or by email, email@example.com. You may also learn more about our law firm by visiting www.hamillittle.com.
- Expansion of Definition of and Rules for “Advertisements”
Previously, “advertisements” covered by this section were limited to advertising the non-physician health care practitioner, but now it is also required when advertising “the practice.” Under the new law, “an advertisement by a health care practitioner shall include the practitioner’s name and disclose only the type of license under which the health care practitioner is authorized to provide services.” The advertisement shall not: “Include deceptive or misleading terms or false representations” or “Include or reference medical or medical specialty titles [M.D. or D.O.], unless such health care practitioner is a physician licensed [as an M.D. or D.O].”
- Deceptive Advertisements Include Titles that “Falsely Imply” the Practitioner’s Credentials
The bill added definitions of “Clinical Setting” and “Deceptive or misleading terms or false representations.” “Deceptive or misleading terms or false representations includes, but is not limited to, the use of titles, terms, or other words that misstate, falsely describe, falsely hold out, falsely detail, or falsely imply the health care practitioners: (A) Profession; (B) Skills; (C) Training; (D) Expertise; (E) Educational degree; (F) Board certification; (G) Licensure; (H) Work or services offered; or (I) Medical field, if such practitioner is not a physician licensed pursuant to Article 2 of Chapter 34 of this title.”
Importantly, this change includes words that “falsely imply” the practitioner’s licensure and certification. This provision causes me concern because the practitioner/practice may need to put themselves into the shoes of a typical patient consumer to consider how someone could misunderstand an honest and earned title, such as DNP. The law does not just limit this to intentionally caused false implications. Provisions of the act discussed below guard against certain false implications that the legislature was aware of (i.e., mid-levels with doctorate degrees), but the onus is on the practitioner and practice to employ similar tactics when a consumer may misunderstand credentials, titles, etc.
- Measures that Must Be Taken by Mid-Levels
APRNs and PAs must “verbally identify himself or herself as an [APRN/PA] during each patient interaction in a clinical setting. An [APRN/PA] who holds a doctorate degree and identifies himself or herself with the title ‘doctor’ while in a clinical setting shall clearly state that he or she is not a medical doctor of physician.”
If you have questions regarding this blog post or would like to speak with counsel regarding laws that may impact you or your medical spa practice, you may contact us at (404) 685-1662 (Atlanta) or (706) 722-7886 (Augusta), or by email, firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also learn more about our law firm by visiting www.hamillittle.com.
*Disclaimer: Thoughts shared here do not constitute legal advice.