Dis­ci­plinary ac­tions up 6.4%

Fed­er­a­tion of State Med­i­cal Boards study finds 5,721 in­stances last year

Modern Healthcare - - The Week In Healthcare - Joe Carl­son

Med­i­cal boards across the coun­try took dis­ci­plinary ac­tions against 5,721 physi­cians in 2009, the high­est num­ber and the largest per­cent­age jump in cor­rec­tive mea­sures in sev­eral years, ac­cord­ing to an an­nual re­port from the Fed­er­a­tion of State Med­i­cal Boards.

The 2009 tally was a 6.4% in­crease from the prior year, the largest sin­gle jump in five years. In 2008, dis­ci­plinary ac­tions in­creased by 1% to 5,379. The largest sin­gle-year jump on record still hand­ily be­longs to 2004, when the fig­ure in­creased 19% to 6,265, ac­cord­ing to a re­view of the an­nual re­ports posted by the fed­er­a­tion since 1990.

The most re­cent re­port in­cludes sum­mary data from 70 state med­i­cal and os­teo­pathic boards from the 50 states and sev­eral Amer­i­can ter­ri­to­ries. The ac­tions in­clude li­cense re­vo­ca­tions, sus­pen­sions, forced re­tire­ments and other ac­tions.

The fed­er­a­tion dis­cour­ages side-by-side com­par­isons of the num­ber of dis­ci­plinary ac­tions from states, be­cause dif­fer­ent boards have widely vary­ing lev­els of staffing, re­sources, physi­cians mon­i­tored and stan- dards of re­view.

Al­though side-by-side com­par­isons are dis­cour­aged, the fed­er­a­tion’s re­ports are typ­i­cally fol­lowed up by an anal­y­sis from the Pub­lic Ci­ti­zen Health Re­search Group, whose anal­y­sis com­par­ing the states in the fed­er­a­tion data of­ten lead to changes in boards’ fund­ing lev­els and dis­ci­plinary ac­tions given.

The fed­er­a­tion, how­ever, does use the data to com­pute a statis­tic called the Com­pos­ite Action In­dex, which is styled as a kind of barom­e­ter for changes in a state med­i­cal as­so­ci­a­tion’s ac­tions. Specif­i­cally, the in­dex is a weighted av­er­age of dis­ci­plinary ac­tions us­ing state de­mo­graph­ics and the sever­ity of the ac­tions be­ing taken.

Lisa Robin, se­nior vice pres­i­dent of ad­vo­cacy and mem­ber ser­vices for the fed­er­a­tion, said one rea­son for the uptick in dis­ci­pline in re­cent years is states’ abil­ity to share and re­ceive in­for­ma­tion faster. Most states in the U.S. al­low re­cip­ro­cal ac­tions, in which med­i­cal boards can take action against a physi­cian based on be­hav­ior re­ported to a li­cens­ing board in an­other state, she said.

“Med­i­cal boards are dili­gent in in­ves­ti­gat- ing com­plaints, and they are de­pen­dent on the in­for­ma­tion they re­ceive,” Robin said. “Our dis­ci­plinary alert ser­vice al­lows us to proac­tively alert all other states when a li­censee gets an action in an­other ju­ris­dic­tion.”

Looking at per­cent­age changes in the in­dex, the New Hamp­shire and South Dakota med­i­cal boards saw the high­est rel­a­tive in­creases in their in­dexes, with both states more than dou­bling their dis­ci­plinary ac­tions to 16 from seven the year be­fore.

The only other state whose in­dex more than dou­bled was Ne­braska, where the med­i­cal board handed out 69 ac­tions in 2009 com­pared to 32 the year be­fore.

In con­trast, the Florida Board of Os­teo­pathic Medicine and the South Carolina Board of Med­i­cal Ex­am­in­ers saw the largest per­cent­age de­creases in their in­dex rank­ings, with those boards hand­ing out 38 (16 in 2009 vs. 54 in 2008) and 36 (20 in 2009 vs. 56 in 2008) fewer dis­ci­plinary ac­tions, re­spec­tively.

The av­er­age in­crease in the Com­pos­ite Action In­dex across all the 63 state med­i­cal and os­teo­pathic boards and cat­e­gories for which two years of data are avail­able was 7%.

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