FSMB National Statement Warns That Medical Misinformation May Be Grounds for Loss of Medical License

The FSMB Board of Directors issued a national statement on July 29, 2021, warning that physicians and other health care professionals are at risk of losing their medical licenses if they spread misinformation and disinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Board released the statement in response to a dramatic increase in the dissemination of COVID-19 vaccine misinformation and disinformation by physicians and other health care professionals on social media platforms, online and in the media.

The statement reads: “Physicians who willfully generate and spread COVID-19 vaccine misinformation or disinformation are risking disciplinary action by state medical boards, including the suspension or revocation of their medical license. Due to their specialized knowledge and training, licensed physicians possess a high degree of public trust and therefore have a powerful platform in society, whether they recognize it or not. They also have an ethical and professional responsibility to practice medicine in the best interests of their patients and must share information that is factual, scientifically grounded and consensus-driven for the betterment of public health. Spreading inaccurate COVID-19 vaccine information contradicts that responsibility, threatens to further erode public trust in the medical profession and puts all patients at risk.”

The FSMB has created a special website with resources and information related to the pandemic for medical regulators, policymakers and the public. Visit the site at www.fsmb.org/advocacy/covid-19.

FSMB Webinar on Telemedicine and the COVID-19 Pandemic Now Available Online

The first webinar in the FSMB’s 2021–2022 Virtual Education Program series is now available for viewing online. “Telemedicine During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” which was offered on July 21 to a live audience, includes continuing medical education (CME) credit and will be available until July 2022.

The featured speaker was Michael L. Barnett, MD, Assistant Professor of Health Policy and Management at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The webinar was moderated by FSMB President and CEO Humayun J. Chaudhry, DO, MACP.

Prior to the pandemic, telemedicine use in the United States was minimal, and until recently, it was largely underutilized. But COVID-19 quickly changed that by suddenly thrusting telemedicine to center stage. Interest in and implementation of telemedicine expanded rapidly, which opened the door for patients to maintain access to care during this public health crisis. During the webinar, Dr. Barnett discussed the lasting impact COVID-19 has had on health care delivery, from emergency rooms to nursing homes, and the impact these changes will have on patients and health care practitioners in the years to come.

To view the webinar, visit www.pathlms.com/fsmb/courses.

Two New States Join Interstate Medical Licensure Compact

Ohio and Delaware recently became the two latest states to join the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, which now includes 33 states, the District of Columbia and the Territory of Guam. Legislation is currently pending in several other states, including Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and North Carolina.

Steady growth in the use of the Compact for obtaining physician licensure in recent years has accelerated during the pandemic, with the number of licenses issued through the Compact more than doubling between March 2020 and February 2021. More than 21,000 physician licenses have been issued using the Compact since it was launched in 2015 as a means of expediting licensure for physicians interested in multi-state medical practice.

To learn more about the Compact, visit www.imlcc.org.

FSMB House of Delegates Adopts Report of the FSMB Workgroup on Emergency Preparedness and Response

At its 2021 Annual Meeting, the FSMB House of Delegates formally adopted recommendations of the FSMB Workgroup on Emergency Preparedness and Response, which began meeting in May 2020 to discuss issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the following year, the workgroup, chaired by FSMB 2020–2021 Chair Cheryl Walker-McGill, MD, MBA, met frequently to identify best practices currently in use to address the pandemic and to consider potential recommendations to help state boards better prepare for future pandemics and other emergencies.

The workgroup gathered information from diverse sources and was advised by national experts as it prepared its recommendations. Topic areas it focused on included the application of state and federal executive and emergency orders, the rapidly changing landscape of utilization and regulation of telehealth, the impact of health inequities as underscored by the pandemic, the need to address the spread of misinformation — which poses a challenge to public health-focused harm-reduction strategies — and the challenges faced by state medical boards in transitioning their work to a remote environment.

The workgroup identified a range of priority issues for state boards, organizing its work into five major categories:

  • Verification of provider identity in a public health emergency

  • Utilization of telehealth during public health or national emergencies

  • Commitment to the utilization of scientific evidence

  • Combatting racial and ethnic disparities in health-care and public health emergencies

  • State medical board planning for future emergencies

Its six major recommendations include:

  1. The FSMB should work with state medical boards, health professional regulatory boards, and relevant stakeholders to develop model language to clarify emergency licensure processes.

  2. The FSMB should establish a Workgroup to update the Model Policy for the Appropriate Use of Telemedicine Technologies in the Practice of Medicine (2014), taking into account the lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  3. The FSMB should develop strategies for state medical boards to help combat health inequities and bias in medical discipline in their jurisdictions.

  4. State medical boards should engage in periodic reviews of their emergency preparedness plans to ensure that such plans include current contact information for staff, state emergency management offices, partner organizations and procedures for communications.

  5. The FSMB should review and update its Emergency and Disaster Preparedness Plan: A Guide for State Medical Boards document to encompass lessons learned during COVID-19, including plans for additional types of emergencies and disasters that may occur in the future.

  6. State medical boards should identify their capabilities for remote operations during emergencies and remain informed of any emergency changes to their state’s open-meeting laws during such times.

The report can be viewed in its entirety at the FSMB’s website. Please visit www.fsmb.org/advocacy/policies.