‘Major Gap’ Found Among State Medical Boards’ Disciplinary Actions
Medical boards in different states have a "major gap" in their rate of disciplinary actions against doctors, and patients who reside in states with "less aggressive medical boards are more at risk for doctor-caused injury," according to a study released yesterday (Las Vegas Sun, 4/9). In the study, conducted by the Health Research Group at Public Citizen, a consumer advocacy organization, researchers used information from the Federation of State Medical Boards to rank the rates of "serious disciplinary actions" per 1,000 doctors in the 50 states and the District of Columbia in 2001 (Dembner, Boston Globe, 4/10). The study found that last year, state medical boards nationwide issued 2,708 serious disciplinary actions -- such as license revocations, surrenders, suspensions and probations -- against doctors, or a rate of 3.36 actions per 1,000 physicians, compared with 3.49 in 2000. The disciplinary rates "varied widely" between the highest- and lowest-ranked state medical boards. The medical board in Arizona ranked as the "best-performing" board, with a rate of 10.52 serious disciplinary actions per 1,000 doctors, and the medical board in the District of Columbia was the "worst-performing," with a rate of .73 actions per 1,000 doctors. According to the study, state medical boards that have adequate funding and staffing, independent leadership and the "power to undertake significant investigations and follow through with discipline are most likely to be effective." Dr. Sidney Wolfe, director of the Health Research Group, said, "The state boards should hold physicians to the highest standards, and if they're not, patients are vulnerable to doctors who are practicing bad medicine and endangering lives" (Public Citizen release, 4/9). The study is available online.
In a separate study, the Health Research Group rated Web sites administered by state medical boards in the 50 states and the District of Columbia for content and "user-friendliness" (Associated Press, 4/10). The study found "modest improvement" in the Web sites from 2000. Seven sites received an "A" grade for content, and 20 received an "A" grade for user-friendliness. Researchers based the content grades on whether the Web sites named disciplined doctors and "how complete the information on the disciplinary actions was." According to the study, state medical boards should "adopt minimum uniform standards so that all sites have searchable databases on physicians that include information from the past 10 years and are kept up-to-date" (Public Citizen release, 4/9). The study is available online.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.