Do US Medical Licensing Applications Treat Mental and Physical Illness Equivalently?

This study, published in Family Medicine, sought to assess whether state medical licensing boards asked about mental and physical health conditions differently and whether questions focused on current impairment or past impairment. The authors reviewed physician medical licensing applications for US physicians seeking first-time licensing in 2013 in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The study found that while most state medical licensing boards ask about mental health conditions or treatment, states were more likely to ask for history of treatment and prior hospitalization for mental health and substance use, compared with physical health disorders. Among states asking about mental health, just 23 (53%) limited all questions to disorders causing functional impairment and just 6 (14%) limited to current problems. Differences in how state licensing boards assess mental health raise important ethical and legal questions about assessing physician ability to practice and may discourage treatment for physicians who might otherwise benefit from appropriate care.

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