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55% of Censured Docs Face No Licensing Action by State Medical Boards

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, March 17, 2011

More than half of U.S. physicians whose negligence, malpractice, sexual abuse, fraud, or other behaviors result in censure by hospital peer review escape any state medical board licensing action, according to national health watchdog group, Public Citizen.

"One of two things is happening, and either is alarming," said Public Citizen director, Sidney Wolfe, MD, in a statement. "Either state medical boards are receiving this disturbing information from hospitals but not acting on it, or much less likely, they are not receiving the information at all. Something is broken and needs to be fixed."

Wolfe's group combed the National Practitioner Data Base (NPDB) for the names of doctors whose hospitals had revoked or restricted their physician staff privileges and found 10,672 doctors between 1990 and 2009. Hospitals are required by law to report such sanctions to the NPDB when disciplinary action to revoke or limit staff privileges extends for more than 30 days, and to the state professional licensing agency.

Of these, 55% – 5,887 doctors – had no licensing action taken against them by their state medical boards.

The group sent its report along with a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius urging her to have the Office of Inspector General investigate state medical boards, "something it has not done since 1993," Wolfe wrote.

"State medical board licensure action against a physician, if warranted, provides a greater assurance than a hospital privilege action alone that the 105 million patients whose medical care is partly funded by HHS...would be better protected from questionable physicians," Wolfe's letter to Sebelius said.

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4 comments on "55% of Censured Docs Face No Licensing Action by State Medical Boards"


Richard Willner (5/7/2011 at 9:30 AM)
One thing comes to mind. Was the evaluation of the surgeon or physician fair at the hospital peer review? Under the federal law called the Health Care Quality Improvement Act of 1986, the ONLY right that the doctor ( MD, DO, DPM, DDS) has is "procedural due process". He does not have "due process rights". Yes, I know it is hard to believe but this is the fact. The details can be seen at The Center for Peer Review Justice, www.PeerReview.org . Physician Peer Review can be fine and proper, or it can be "gamed" as the Hospital and all concerned enjoy immunity under this Law and case law that follows. And, a doctor can be called "disruptive" and be on the fast tract towards losing his Licence. How is "disruptive physician" or a "disruptive surgeon" defined? After 11 years of seeing hundreds of cases, it is definded as anything that the CEO says it is. Really. But, there ARE solutions that have been developed.

Shammed Doc (3/19/2011 at 2:01 AM)
There is a major flaw in assuming that a hospital's decision to revoke a physician's privileges or to enforce a disciplinary action necessarily means that a physician is actually bad. This is not even the most likely scenario by any stretch of imagination. The current laws actually do not have a provision, whatsoever, that an accused physician be provided with a constitutional "due process", believe it or not. In other words, if some gang up, and they control the entire process against an undesirable physician (for whatever reason) there is no recourse for the physician since she/he may not be given the right to an "impartial" authority (equal to an impartial jury). So, I just wanted to alert the readers that the current process lumps together rogue doctors with excellent ones who got "shammed" by their peers. A peer review reform is needed to protect the patients from the rogue doctors who stay in power without being subjected to any reviews, and protect the good doctors who are now pushed under the bus by malicious-acting peers. Patients are victims of a process that does not effectively differentiate the definitely good from the definitely bad. Loopholes get exploited all the time. I try to increase awareness with this important issue via a blog www.shammeddoc.blogspot.com .

April (3/18/2011 at 10:55 AM)
Keep in mind that doctors can be reported to the NPDB for minor things such as not signing charts in a timely manner. While bad, it is not the same as leaving a foreign object in a patient. This story is taking something that needs to be looked at and blowing it out of proportion for publicity and ratings.