Background: In many countries, NMAs, along with other stakeholders, play a part in the regulation of physicians. The purpose of this paper is to compare and explain the level of involvement of NMAs in physician regulation in several developed countries, with a specific emphasis on Israel.
Methods: The authors conducted a review of the literature on physician regulation, focusing on licensing and registration, postgraduate training and physician disciplinary measures. Detailed country specific information was also obtained via the websites of relevant NMAs and regulatory bodies and correspondence with select NMAs.Five test cases were examined in detail: Germany, Israel, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and the United States. The Israeli case will be discussed at greater length.
Results: Medical licensing usually lies in the hands of the government (on the national or state level). Specialist training, on the other hand, is often self-regulated and entrusted in the hands of the profession, frequently under the direct responsibility of the NMA, as in Israel, the Netherlands and Germany.In all the countries presented, other than Germany, the NMA is not involved in instituting disciplinary procedures in cases of alleged physician misconduct.
Discussion: The extent to which NMAs fulfill regulatory functions varies greatly from country to country. The relationship between government and the profession in the area of regulation often parallels the dominant mode of governance in the health care system as a whole. Specifically, the level of involvement of the Israeli Medical Association in medical regulation is a result of political, historical and ideological arrangements shaped vis-à-vis the government over the years.
Conclusions: In Continental Europe, co-operation between the NMA and the government is more common than in the USA and the UK. The Israeli regulatory model emerged in a European-like fashion, closer to the Netherlands than to Germany.The Israeli case, as well as the others, demonstrates the importance of history and ideology in shaping contemporary regulatory models.