Medical Boards in the District of Columbia, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Georgia Had Worst Performance
WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new Public Citizen report on state medical boards’ disciplinary actions found that Michigan had the strongest record of disciplining doctor misconduct, as measured by the rate of serious actions taken against physicians between 2019 and 2021. Ohio ranked second, North Dakota third, and Colorado fourth. Twenty-four states, however, had rates that were less than half that of Michigan’s. The District of Columbia, Nevada, New Hampshire, and Georgia ranked lowest.
The new report shows a decline in state rates of serious disciplinary actions as compared to 2017-2019, which was covered in the previous report. The report could not account for the effects, if any, of the COVID-19 pandemic on serious disciplinary actions in 2020 and 2021.
“The public deserves to be protected from dangerous doctors,” said Robert Oshel, Ph.D., former Associate Director for Research of the National Practitioner Data Bank and Advisor to Public Citizen’s Health Research Group. “There is no evidence that physicians in any state are, overall, more or less likely to be incompetent or miscreant than the physicians in any other state. Thus, differences in discipline rates between states reflect variations in boards’ enforcement of medical practice laws, domination of licensing boards by physicians, and inadequate budgets rather than differences in physician incompetence or misbehavior.”
The rate of serious disciplinary actions in Michigan was 9 times higher than in the District of Columbia, which ranked 51st. Michigan averaged 1.74 serious disciplinary actions per 1,000 physicians per year, while the District of Columbia had only 0.19. Nevada, New Hampshire, Georgia, Indiana, Nebraska, and South Carolina, among other states, had only marginally higher rates than the District of Columbia.
California, the state with the most physicians, ranked 27th, with 0.83 serious disciplinary actions per 1,000 patients per year. New York, the state with the second largest number of physicians, ranked 7th, with 1.25 serious disciplinary actions per 1,000 patients per year.
Based on the 2019-2021 data, if all states had increased their annual rate of serious disciplinary actions to match Michigan’s rate of 1.74 serious actions per 1,000 physicians per year for 2019 through 2021, there would have been 1,133 more serious disciplinary actions taken per year against physicians throughout the United States. This would have almost doubled the average annual number of serious state disciplinary actions nationally, from 1,281 to 2,414.
Another significant finding is that the highest rate of serious state disciplinary actions (Michigan) was 0.55 serious actions per 1,000 physicians lower than the highest rate in the 2017-2019 report (Kentucky, 2.29 serious actions per 1,000 physicians per year). Indeed, Michigan’s rate is lower than the highest three state rates in the 2017-2019 report.
“Michigan’s rate of serious disciplinary actions against physicians is a floor, not a ceiling,” said Dr. Robert Steinbrook, Director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group. “All state medical boards could do a far better job of protecting the public from dangerous doctors and improving the quality of medical care.”
The report is based on recent information from the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), a national flagging system that also includes information on hospital actions and medical malpractice payments.
The report calls for federal legislation requiring state medical boards to use the data in the NPDB when licensing all physicians and renewing their licenses. The report also calls for opening the physician-specific data in the NPDB to the public.