A proposed bill in Kansas should make us question the rationale of continuing medical education requirements for physicians.
The bill is HB 2615, titled “Charitable healthcare providers; continuing education credits for gratuitous care of eligible patients.”
The bill’s supplemental note explains the bill “… would allow charitable healthcare providers and dentists to fulfill one hour of continuing education credit for performance of two hours of gratuitous service to medically indigent persons.”
In an op-ed published in the Wichita Eagle Representative Dan Hawkins explained “we believe that this system has the potential of generating more than $18 million in free care for the neediest Kansans.” (Rep. Dan Hawkins: Plan increases access to health care, reduces cost, March 7, 2016)
Contrary to Hawkins, the care won’t be free. It may not cost the state anything, but it will have a cost to the doctors who supply the “free” care.
Perhaps more importantly, this bill should make us question the purpose of continuing medical education requirements for physicians and dentists. In Kansas, physicians must participate in 50 hours of continuing medical education annually. This education requirement is satisfied by participating in “activity designed to maintain, develop, or increase the knowledge, skills, and professional performance of persons licensed to practice a branch of the healing arts.”
But HB 2615 will let physicians satisfy 20 hours of this requirement by providing 40 hours of health care to needy people. Having doctors perform routine medical care — doing their daily job, in other words — doesn’t seem likely to advance the “knowledge, skills, and professional performance” of doctors, which is the stated goal of the regulation.
We have, therefore, a regulation that seems reasonable — ensuring that doctors are up-to-date in professional knowledge — instead being used by the state to “encourage” doctors to provide free labor.
Episodes like this should be a lesson in the powers and abuses of the regulatory state.
The Kansas regulations
According to the Kansas Board of Healing Arts, physicians must participate in continuing medical education each year, earning “50 hours with a minimum of 20 hours of Category I and a maximum of 30 hours of Category II.”
In more detail, the regulations state the continuing education is “activity designed to maintain, develop, or increase the knowledge, skills, and professional performance of persons licensed to practice a branch of the healing arts.” 1 Category I continuing education is “presented by a person qualified by practical or academic experience” and may consist of lectures, panel discussions, workshops, seminars, symposiums, and other formal learning opportunities. 2 The requirements are 20 hours of this education annually.
Category II continuing education comprises activities that are less formal, such as “clinical consultations with other healing arts practitioners that contribute to a practitioner’s education, participation in activities to review the quality of patient care, instructing healing arts and other health care practitioners, patient-centered discussions with other health care practitioners, participating in journal clubs, using searchable electronic databases in connection with patient care activities. and
using self-instructional materials.” 3 The requirements are 30 hours of this education annually.
Of note, HB 2615 doesn’t seem to specify into which category will fall the hours of continuing medical education earned by providing service to needy patients.
- K.A.R. 100-15. (2016). Ksbha.org. Available at: http://www.ksbha.org/regulations/article15.shtml#kar100154. ↩
- ibid. ↩
- ibid. ↩