A new bill in the New Jersey Legislature proposes requiring healthcare providers to wear a name tag that identities their license type whenever they interact with a patient.
Providers would also have to display their education, training and licensure in their office under the New Jersey Health Care Transparency Act, according to the Medical Society of New Jersey, a professional group representing physicians and the architect of the legislation introduced on Thursday.
"Patients deserve to know whether the healthcare provider they see is a physician, registered nurse, chiropractor or other medical professional," MSNJ Manager of Government Relations Marlene M. Kalayilparampil said in a statement.
The bill would also ban providers from advertising or promoting services beyond their scope of practice.
"Healthcare professionals — physicians and non-physicians alike — should clearly display their education and licensure, so that patients know exactly who is responsible for their care," MSNJ CEO Larry Downs said.
State Rep. Stephen Sweeney is sponsoring the bill. His office did not respond to a request for comment.
According to a 2018 survey of consumers by the American Medical Association, 79% of respondents would support legislation similar to the New Jersey bill. The same poll found that many consumers don't understand what types of providers hold a Doctor of Medicine or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine degree or equivalent. For example, 39% of survey respondents thought a Doctor of Nurse Practice was a physician.
Physician groups have pushed so-called "truth in advertising" laws for years, claiming that consumers have a right to know what type of provider is treating them and the provider's scope of practice. But laws like the New Jersey Health Care Transparency Act don't usually require consumers to receive education about other provider types, so it's unclear whether they help patients understand who's delivering their care.
Some advanced practice providers like nurse practitioners and physician assistants argue that while such laws seem well-intentioned, they're mostly an attempt to maintain physicians' power in the healthcare delivery system by subtly undermining the credibility of other qualified professionals.
"It is unfortunate to see this type of unnecessary legislation continue to come forward," said the American Association of Nurse Practitioners in an email. "The majority of the healthcare professionals covered by this proposal already have language in licensure law and regulation that address professional representation and deceptive or unprofessional practice. Consumers should not have state funds used for regulations that are unnecessary, duplicative and do not provide meaningful public protections."
Physician groups often support policies that prevent APPs from practicing at the top of their license.