Someone I know to be an impeccable source and a first-hand witness told me an interesting story about a young female friend who fell ill on holiday in North Africa. When she got home, she claimed for the doctor’s bill on her travel insurance. The claim was rejected because the person who treated her wasn’t actually a doctor. It was, as it transpired, just some guy who worked for the hotel (and presumably examined young women as a hobby). Which led me to think: how would you know? If I got sick in New York and asked the hotel to call a doctor, I’d be reasonably confident that the concierge would call an actual doctor rather than a friend who drives a taxi but has a stethoscope in the trunk. But would I check? Would I have called the New York state medical licensing board (or whatever – I just made this up) to find out?

Maybe a smartphone app that lets you take a picture of the “doctor” and then, after a few seconds, shows you a picture of his diploma would do it. Which reminds me of the old Robert Schimmel joke about going to the dentist: “Do you want a shot of novocaine / No, I want a shot of you getting a diploma”. But, for reasons related to discussions earlier in the week, I’m not sure about “passive” credential services like this. Perhaps a better solution would be that the doctor arrives with a smart card or his or her mobile phone or a badge or something else with NFC or a contactless interfaces, you read it with your phone and your phone displays a blank screen if the person isn’t a doctor and a their picture if they are a doctor with a valid license to practice in the location where you are scanning.

A woman has been charged with fraud after allegedly pretending to be a doctor at GP practices across the country…. The 29-year-old, from Maidstone, in Kent, allegedly had no medical qualifications but was thought to have used a name and registration number with the General Medical Council belonging to a real doctor.

[From ‘Fake locum GP’ who worked in practices across Britain charged with fraud | Daily Mail Online]

Now, if I were a medical practice employing a doctor, I might be tempted to at least look them up on LinkedIn or something before I let them get their hands on a patient but I suppose that under the National Health Service it’s considered ungentlemanly or discriminatory or just plain rude to ask a prospective clinical employee for verifiable evidence of any valid qualifications. We are English, so we take people at their word. Dictum meum pactum.

But then I was thinking that if I go to see a doctor for some antibiotics I don’t care if it’s a real doctor or not so long as they can write me up some amoxicillin. Or if I am expecting intimate examination for my problem, I might not care who Doctor X actually is, but I do care that they are a doctor. That’s a different problem. Anyway, being English, I am far more terrified by fake dentists.

A bogus dentist who earned almost £230,000 by using a fake degree certificate to land work at a string of NHS hospitals was jailed for three years today.

[From Bogus dentist who earned £230,000 operating in NHS hospitals jailed for three years | Daily Mail Online]

Remember, these news stories (and believe me, they are far from unusual in this sceptr’d isle) are telling us about the bogus doctors, dentists, nurses and surgeons who got caught. There simply must be others working here, today, undetected. Aargh!

Since no post on fintech right now is complete without a blockchain reference, here’s a straw man for comment. Hospitals, clinics, GP surgeries and pharmacies around the country are chock full of PCs that are doing nothing for most the time. Make them mine a blockchain of medical professionals that anyone can look up. Then when you graduate medical school you could be given a smart contract that contains your license to practice subject to certain conditions that the contract can check for itself. When I go to see the dentist, I can ask him to whip out his smartphone and demonstrate ownership of the private key that the smart license has been sent to.

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