OGDEN -- Now for the first time, we can just type in a name on our PC, laptop or handheld device to call up disciplinary actions against our doctor, accountant, massage therapist or nail technician.
Updates to the website of state regulators in the Department of Commerce were announced late last week, the biggest being the new search capability for the Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing.
"The most significant change is to the DOPL disciplinary database," Jennifer Bolton, the commerce department's public information officer, said in an interview. "We've uploaded all of these records of actions taken, going back to 2007."
DOPL licenses and regulates approximately 189,000 Utah professionals, including the state's nearly 9,000 doctors, 8,000-plus engineers and more than 25,000 barbers and cosmotologists.
Before the new search capability was installed at dopl.utah.gov, Bolton said, a concerned patron had to call DOPL on the phone during working hours or scroll through the department's monthly disciplinary newsletter, which is available on the website.
Now taxpayers can learn at their leisure about professionals and tradespeople they might want to hire.
"On the weekend, whenever, you can check the searchable DOPL disciplinary database for plumbers and nail techs, to see if they have a record, so to speak," Bolton said.
Utah's nail technicians are governed by the state's Nail Technician Licensing Act. For fiscal 2011, the state counted 4,170 nail technicians employed, according to the commerce department's 2011 annual report, also available online.
The upgraded online services across several divisions in the commerce department were announced in a news release by Gov. Gary R. Herbert and Francine A. Giani, executive director of the commerce department.
"The Department of Commerce is one of the State's workhorse websites, making sure consumers and businesses find the information they need," Herbert said.
"These upgrades represent the best win-win for our state, saving the public's valuable time and Utah money by putting more records and services online. We will continue to make sure utah.gov responds to the needs of our citizens by giving them the tools and information they seek at their fingertips 24-7."
Commerce and its divisions receive more than 2.6 million annual visits to their websites, and 60 percent of all businesses register online now, with approximately 2,600 new registrations a month. Utah businesses save around 208,000 hours per year versus filing paperwork in person, officials said.
"Our divisions are constantly looking for new ways to help the public find what they need online, so they can get back to business and back to their day, without making several phone calls," said Giani in the release.
Other enhancements announced by commerce include:
* Upgraded searchable charity database in the Division of Consumer Protection, in which consumers can enter names of entities and quickly find out if they are registered with the state and how much of any donation goes to the charity's end user, at www.consumerprotection.utah.gov.
* One Stop Online Business Registration Program has added services at www.corporations.utah.gov to include live help, online registration -- even for foreign entities -- and improved navigation and interface.
* The new Live Help Online service will be available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday at www.realestate.utah.gov to answer consumer real estate questions.
According to the commerce department's 2011 annual report, DOPL investigators respond to about 4,000 complaints a year.
Among the many categories monitored, the state counts roughly 4,400 certified public accountants licensed through DOPL, along with 4,000 plumbers, nearly 30,000 nurses, close to 5,000 massage therapists, about 700 veterinarians and some 20 midwives.
Lawyers, police officers and auto mechanics are licensed and monitored by other agencies.