Public Citizen Ranks Performance of State Medical Boards in 2002

March 27, 2003

Public Citizen Ranks Performance of State Medical Boards in 2002

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Using information from the Federation of State Medical Boards, Public Citizen has ranked the performance of the 50 state medical boards and the District of Columbia based on the rate of serious disciplinary actions taken against doctors in 2002.

State disciplinary rates varied widely. The 10 worst-performing boards were Hawaii (the lowest rate), Delaware, Wisconsin, Tennessee, South Carolina, Maryland, North Carolina, Florida, Pennsylvania and Minnesota. The 10 best-performing boards were Wyoming (the highest rate), North Dakota, Alaska, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Arizona, Ohio, Colorado, Montana and Utah.

Of the 15 states with the worst disciplinary records, six – Maryland, Hawaii, Delaware, South Dakota, Minnesota and Washington – were also in the bottom 15 states in 2000 and 2001. Meanwhile, five of the top 10 states – North Dakota, Alaska, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Ohio – were in the top 10 in 1999, 2000 and 2001. One state, Alaska, has been in the top 10 for more than 10 years straight.

Nationally, state boards took 2,864 actions against doctors, including license revocations, surrenders, suspensions and probations/restrictions. Physicians are typically disciplined for offenses such as negligence, incompetence, sexual misconduct and breaking criminal laws. Public Citizen calculated each state board’s disciplinary rate per 1,000 physicians; the national rate was 3.56 actions per 1,000 physicians, compared to 3.36 in 2001. The disciplinary rate for the top state was 11.1 times that of the lowest state.

“This information raises serious questions about the extent to which patients in states with poorer records of serious doctor discipline are being protected from physicians who might well be barred from practice in states with boards that are doing a better job of disciplining physicians,” said Sidney Wolfe, M.D., director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group. “It is extremely likely that patients are being injured or killed more often in states with poor doctor disciplinary records than in states with consistent top performances.”

Boards are more likely to do a better job at disciplining doctors if they have adequate funding and staffing, good leadership, independence from state medical societies, and the power to undertake significant investigations, Wolfe said. For a copy of the report, click here.

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