Medical Advice by Phone? License Required.

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Medical Advice by Phone? License Required.

Does your health care provider offer medical advice by phone? Maybe through an advice nurse call center or something similar?

If so, the provider must be registered by the Telephone Medical Advice Services Bureau (TMAS).

TMAS doesn't have doctors or nurses on staff and doesn't provide medical advice. TMAS registers and regulates businesses that do.

Businesses and individuals offering medical advice by phone to California consumers must be licensed. In most cases, the health care professional is licensed in the state where the call center or advice business is located. Registered nurses, the most common providers of this service, must be licensed by the California Board of Registered Nursing no matter where they are located.

TMAS verifies that the medical advice staff have the proper licenses. TMAS also processes complaints from consumers about telephone medical advice that they have received. Complaints are forwarded to the Department of Managed Health Care and other licensing boards.

Which businesses must register with TMAS?

Any business that employs, or contracts or subcontracts, directly or indirectly with the full-time equivalent of five or more persons whose primary function is to provide telephone medical advice and who provide that advice to Californians. The business may be located in California or in another state.

Under California law, the following licensed healthcare practitioners may provide medical advice by phone:

  • Physician and surgeon
  • Osteopathic physician and surgeon
  • Dentist or dental hygienist
  • Registered nurse
  • Optometrist
  • Chiropractor
  • Psychologist
  • Marriage and family therapist
  • Licensed clinical social worker

Businesses that may be required to register with TMAS include:

  • Health management organizations (HMOs)
  • Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs) Physicians' groups
  • Hospitals
  • Disability insurers
  • Disease management organizations
  • Employee assistance programs
  • Case management services
  • Wellness organizations
  • Eldercare/childcare assistance organizations
  • Stand-alone call centers and call centers that contract with the above businesses

Remember: TMAS does not give medical advice. If you have a medical emergency, call your health care provider's advice center or 9-1-1.

For information or to verify a license, contact:

Department of Consumer Affairs
Telephone Medical Advice Services Bureau
1625 North Market Boulevard, Suite N-112B
Sacramento, CA 95834
(916) 574-7992