Consumer group decries lack of physician discipline info

Public Citizen suggests states require medical boards to post criminal and malpractice data online.

By Damon Adams — Posted Nov. 13, 2006

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Most state medical boards do a poor job giving physician discipline information on their Web sites, and state legislators should pass laws to make boards provide better data, a new survey said.

The Oct. 17 report by consumer advocacy group Public Citizen ranked how boards in each state and the District of Columbia did in compiling and presenting physician disciplinary information. Researchers examined eight categories including types of physician identifying information, board disciplinary action, discipline taken by hospitals, discipline by the federal government, malpractice data and criminal convictions. States with separate boards for MDs and DOs were ranked for each.

New Jersey scored the best, followed in the top five by Virginia, Massachusetts, New York and Vermont's MD board. North Dakota rated worst, with New Mexico's DO board, West Virginia's DO board, Louisiana and South Dakota rounding out the bottom five.

The report said 22 states had required medical boards to post physician profiles. But unlike similar surveys in 2000 and 2002, the new study looked at use of outside sources of discipline such as hospitals and the federal government. Public Citizen found few sites provided disciplinary actions other than those the boards took.

"The overall finding is extremely disappointing. The great majority of them are quite inadequate," said Peter Lurie, MD, MPH, deputy director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group, which did the survey. "Where they all fall down is on external information like criminal convictions and malpractice. They can easily get that, but they have chosen not to."

Public Citizen said legislatures should pass laws making boards obtain criminal, malpractice and hospital disciplinary information and provide those data to consumers in a user-friendly format.

The Federation of State Medical Boards said boards had made progress in the decade since Massachusetts became the first board to make its physician profile database public in 1996. James Thompson, MD, president and CEO of the Texas-based federation, said some boards are hampered by lack of funding and staff, and they need better technology.

"There's a strong commitment for all of the state medical boards to get as much relevant information to patients as possible about the physicians they are choosing," he said.

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External links

Public Citizen's 2006 report on doctor disciplinary information on state Web sites (link)

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