STATE MEDICAL BOARD: Web Sites Lacks Doctor Disciplinary Info, Report Says
The Web site for California's state medical board provides wholly inadequate physician disciplinary information, according to a new study by the Public Citizen's Health Research Group (HRG). The survey of Internet-accessible information provided by state medical boards, which track and report physician misconduct, graded each panel based on the Web availability of five facts: the physician's name; disciplinary action taken against the him/her; the offense; a short summary of the doctor's misconduct; and the full text of the actual medical board order. California, along with eight other states, received a "D," posting only two of the five types of information online. Only one state, Maryland, earned an "A" for providing all the required data. Ten states had no Web sites or did not provide any doctor-specific disciplinary information, and thus received an "X." "[G]iven the Internet's power to rapidly disseminate vast amounts of information to many people, it is completely logical that boards provide disciplinary information on the Web. ... [But] [u]nless a board Web site provides adequate information about actions, patients will be unable to use the site to make an informed choice of a physician," the report notes. Despite its dismal showing, the California state medical board was among a few to offer other "important information on their licensees that might be of interest to patients," posting data on malpractice claims and hospitals' disciplinary actions against physicians. To amend the situation, HRG recommends that every state board establish a Web site containing all five types of information, dating back at least 10 years. That information should be frequently updated and remain posted even when a physician's license is suspended, revoked or expired. In addition, users should be able to find information on specific doctors through a searchable database (HRG report, 2/2). "Patients deserve better. States ought to be more thorough and more consistent in informing consumers through the Internet about dangerous doctors," Dr. Sidney Wolfe, HRG director, said (HRG release, 2/2).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.