New Jersey needs to get a better handle on how many doctors are practicing in the state according to a trio of lawmakers.

A bill requires physicians to complete a survey as a condition for biennial registration with the Board of Medical Examiners (BME) in order to better understand and address physician shortages in the state.

The bill, sponsored by Assembly members Ruben Ramos, Pam Lampitt and Herb Conaway, Jr., M.D.has received final legislative approval and now heads to Governor Chris Christie’s desk for approval.

The lack of reporting about these shortages is costing the state millions in federal funds, which only exacerbates the problem further,” says Ramos. “Requiring physicians to complete this survey will allow us to have a better grasp of the problem and implement the necessary solutions.”

The measure is based on a recommendation from the New Jersey Physician Workforce Task Force Report by the New Jersey Council of Teaching Hospital, which cited the need for better data to provide critical information to address future shortages in both primary care and several specialty areas in the state.

According to the report, the lack of data created other negative consequences related to qualifying for J-1 visa positions and federal loan repayment funding that the task force behind the report believed could be rectified, if the state instituted a mandatory re-licensure survey.

“The expected physician shortage threatens our ability to provide quality health care services to our residents,” says Lampitt. “This bill will allow us to better understand where we are falling short so we can tackle the problem before it really hinders our ability to deliver quality health care.”

The bill requires physicians to complete a survey with questions related to their professional practice developed by the Department of Health, in collaboration with the BME as a condition of retaining their licenses to practice in the state.

“While the physician shortage is a national problem, it is less so in states with established policies to address it,” explains Conaway. “This data can help us make the necessary policy and funding decisions to ensure New Jerseyans have access to essential health care services in the future.”

Under the legislation, the BME must require that each physician licensed to practice in the state complete the online survey on the BME website as a condition of biennial registration.

The BME is prohibited from conditioning the physician’s biennial registration on any response provided to a survey question. The BME must compile and serve as the repository of the survey results. The data obtained from the survey that is made available to entities shall not link a physician’s name and scope of practice in any manner that would identify the physician who completed the survey.