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

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, March 17, 2011

Because the NPDB public use file identifies physicians through the use of code numbers rather than names, the identities of these physicians have not been made public.

Of the 5,887 whose staff privileges were curtailed, 220 were identified as causing an immediate threat to health or safety, 605 were disciplined for substandard care, and 1,119 because of incompetence, negligence, or malpractice. Other categories of substandard behavior included sexual misconduct, inability to practice safely, fraud including insurance fraud or fraud obtaining a license and fraud against healthcare programs and narcotics violations.

Of the 5,887 doctors who escaped licensure action, 3,6707 had either a permanent penalty from their hospital or a penalty of a year or more, but no state medical board action.

The report says that some states had far worse track records of not taking action against doctors whose peer reviews had resulted in a report to the NPDB.

In Illinois, for example, "a doctor had clinical privileges permanently revoked in 1999 and accumulated 10 medical malpractice reports between 1992 and 2006 totaling $7 million for, among other things, improperly managing cases, failing to diagnose and failing to identify fetal distress. One patient suffered a major permanent injury while another became a quadriplegic due to a brain injury. Yet Illinois did not discipline the doctor," the group said.

And "in Florida, a doctor had hospital privileges permanently revoked in 2002 for incompetence and racked up 10 medical malpractice reports totaling $1 million between 1992 and 2009 for, among other things, an unnecessary procedure, leaving a foreign body in a patient, and misdiagnosis. Two patients died. Yet the state of Florida took now disciplinary action against the doctor."

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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.