by MELISSA McGINLEY
On January 31, the New York Board of Regents launched its online license verification program, making it possible to check the license and registration status of 610,000 professionals practicing in 38 professions across the state. The new web site also includes any disciplinary actions taken against the licensee during the last three years.
Are you seeking marital advice? Or someone to redecorate your home? If you have access to the Internet, you can visit the Office of Professions' home page to see if a particular interior designer is licensed, or whether any disciplinary actions have been filed against a certain therapist.
While New York is not the first state to put licensing and disciplinary information onlineMassachusetts published physician discipline profiles on the web in November (see CLEAR News, Fall 1996)it does represent the most comprehensive service of its kind to date. In a recent New York Times article, J. Edward Meyer, chairman of the Regents committee on professions, said their site was not only the largest in the country, but the only one to include specific details about disciplinary actions.
"It's been a deep secret for too long as to who is licensed, who is not licensed, and which professionals have been disciplined," Meyer told the Times. "We have a huge number of people holding themselves out as health professionals and design professionals who frankly aren't licensed. We get hundred of complaints a year."
If you visit the site, you'll find a professional's date of licensure and registration status (including the ending date). You won't find a directory of architects or massage therapists to scroll through. In order to search for licensure information, you must know the professional's name or license number. Similarly, while you will find the Regents' disciplinary actions, date and summary of charges acted upon, you won't find information on pending cases, charges, accusations, complaints, minor and technical violations, malpractice suits or dismissals, unless requested by the licensed professional.
You also won't find information on physicians and physician assistants, who are not regulated by the Board of Regents. You can, however, link to the Department of Health's web site (www.health.state.ny.us) to obtain disciplinary actions taken against licensed health practitioners.
Massachusetts engaged in fierce struggles with physicians over what information to report online. Maryland, scheduled to unveil its physician profiles in March, delayed online plans due to physician protests. In contrast, the initial response from a majority of New York professions has been fairly positiveso far. "We did anticipate that some of the licensed professional organizations might be concerned about this," Meyer said. "But the representatives of 21 of the licensed professions met to support the public disclosure. The different professional societies would like to weed out the bad apples."
The Office of the Professions' home page is located at (www.nysed.gov). (Quotes from J. Edward Meyer were taken from the February 2, 1997, New York Times article, "Now Online: Which Professionals Are in Good StandingAnd Why?" by Dan Barry.)