A new report has found that in many states, more than half of the doctors who have had their privileges revoked or restricted by a hospital have faced no disciplinary action from their state medical board.
The failure to discipline doctors in so many cases raises the question of how often these problem doctors go on to commit some form of medical malpractice. Patient safety seems to be at risk.
For patients in Florida, the news gets worse: Florida had the lowest discipline rate in the country. Public Citizen's report found that 63% of doctors in Florida who had had their privileges restricted or reduced, faced no disciplinary action from the state Board of Medicine.
Florida is not alone though. Miami medical malpractice attorneys noted that their state is among thirty-two that let more than half of the offending doctors go without any disciplinary action at the state board level.
According to one observer, either the state boards are not getting the information about discipline from the hospitals, or they are getting the information and failing to act on it. Either way, the situation is alarming.
The reasons for restriction or revocation of privileges by the hospitals are not trivial, either. Of the 5,887 physicians who the state medical boards failed to discipline, 1,119 were disciplined for incompetence, negligence or malpractice. There were 605 who were disciplined for substandard care, and 220 were identified as an immediate threat to health or safety.
There were also 2,071 doctors who were disciplined by hospitals for one of the following: sexual misconduct, fraud including insurance fraud, fraud obtaining a license and fraud against health care programs, inability to practice safely, and narcotics violations.
These serious violations were already investigated by the hospitals, so the state boards received disciplinary cases on a silver platter. State boards need to do more to protect patient safety and prevent medical malpractice.
Source: Los Angeles Times "Report: States fail to discipline rogue doctors" 3/15/2011