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Most Medical Boards 'Terrible' at Discipline

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media, March 29, 2012

State-hopping docs
Another issue is state-hopping. Some doctors are disciplined in one state, but they manage to slip unnoticed into another one, even though a national data bank is supposed to alert state officials about sanctioned doctors, Wolfe says.

The situation underscores continued problems with medical boards and their lack of oversight and control, says Wolfe, a veteran voice for better oversight of physicians. He is calling for medical boards to overhaul their structures and improve their leadership to get the job done.

The Federation of State Medical Boards, which represents 70 medical and osteopathic boards in the U.S. and territories, has been working to prevent "doctors hopscotching around the country," says Dan Wood, spokesman for the Medical Board of California. "Doctors do get in trouble and move from one place to another."

Through the federation, state boards "communicate with each other and we're very good at doing that.  Some places, like Wyoming or Montana or North Dakota, can move faster on cases, because they don't have the caseload like California. We have been impacted by shortage of people and budget restraints."

Even under the best of circumstances, medical boards have a difficult task. Medical boards often rely on information from the healthcare system, including physician "peers" and "that is the most challenging source of information," says Russ Aims, the chief of staff for the Massachusetts Medical Board.

Some colleagues may simply not want to squeal about a colleague's behavior, he says. "We can't assign [an investigator] over every physician's shoulder." However, Aims says, the board implements education programs and touts the importance of "patient safety and that's what it's all about."

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2 comments on "Most Medical Boards 'Terrible' at Discipline"


Joe Tye (3/30/2012 at 9:21 AM)
Another example of the failure of the medical profession to police itself is Lasik eye surgery, which is virtually unregulated. Thousands of people have their eyes permanently damaged each year, and Lasik surgeons consistently fail to report bad outcomes to the FDA. A Canadian news TV producer doing a show on dishonest sales techniques utilized by Lasik doctors told me he's never seen anything like the way Lasik surgeons have "circled the wagons" to protect incompetent surgeons and unethical Lasik mills from scrutiny.

shadowmia (3/29/2012 at 10:14 PM)
The Nevada Board, where the bulk of Murray's practice is, still has not revoked his license or taken any other action against him. The remainder of his practice is in Texas, and the Texas Board likewise has done nothing. The only Board that has revoked his license to practice is California, and Murray's sole patient there was Michael Jackson, whom he killed. All of the above is a grim indictment of the State Medical Boards.