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Medical board looks at speeding up physician licensure

After years of public criticism for its slow process in licensing physicians, the Nevada Board of Medical Examiners Friday agreed on a plan to improve and speed up licensure, sometimes by months.

The concept, introduced by board executive director Louis Ling and his staff, includes using “readily available sources” — such as copies of graduation and postgraduate training certificates and other state medical board Web sites — to verify an applying physician’s experience and education.

Under current procedures the licensing system requires that information about a physician’s background be obtained from sources such as a medical school or a postgraduate training institution.

“The goal is 60 days from the application to issue a license,” Ling said. “That’s going to be for the average applicant where there are no real issues with their applications. That’s our target.”

Other “readily available” sources of verification include:

• translated transcripts of education and training documents if a physician is coming from another country;

• affidavits that would certify the existence of documents that are not readily available;

• the National Practitioner Data Bank and the Health Integrity Protection Data Bank.

Ling said the strength of this system is that, for the “98 out of 100” applicants who do not have any problems, they would become part of the work force within 60 days. It’s also a way of weeding out that small percentage of applicants who aren’t prepared to practice in Nevada.

Changes to Nevada’s medical licensing laws require approval from the state Legislature.

Ling said he knows the licensing staff is capable of speeding up the process, citing its recent work with Utah surgeons who will run University Medical Center’s kidney transplant program.

“We licensed those doctors within 45 days,” he said.

The next step is to work with the Legislative Counsel Bureau to draft a bill to include changes to state law, Ling said.

In addition to revising the licensing process the medical board also approved a plan to modernize its more than 30-year-old disciplinary system.

Ling said it can take months before cases are resolved under the current system, which requires a complaint against a physician from the public go through layers of reviews before reaching the medical board.

Under the new investigative and disciplinary system a Complaint Management Team, comprised of the executive director, the chief of investigations, general counsels, investigators and the medical reviewers would be developed. The team would review complaints by the public against practitioners.

The team would work with the board’s investigative committees to determine how to proceed with those cases.

Ling said the investigative committees will meet “much more frequently, as much as every two weeks.”

The medical board also approved a new half-year budget for fiscal year 2009 because its current budget faced a $300,000 shortfall. To address the shortfall, Ling proposed making changes to the board’s credit card service as well as its diversion program for physicians who need help with substance or alcohol abuse.

Contact reporter Annette Wells at awells@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0283.

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