Public Citizen last week released its annual ranking of U.S. state medical boards, which measures how regularly each board orders serious disciplinary action against physicians.
Nationwide physician discipline data
For the analysis, Public Citizen used data from the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) Summary of 2011 Board Actions. The annual summary gathers disciplinary actions—such as license revocations, probations, restrictions, surrenders and suspensions—taken by the FSMB's 70-member medical and osteopathic boards from all U.S. states, as well as Washington, D.C., and U.S. territories.
Overall, the report found that state medical boards increased disciplinary actions against physicians by 6.8% from 2010 to 2011. Specifically, 6,034 disciplinary actions were taken in 2011, compared to 5,652 in 2010.
In addition, the report found a 4.9% increase in the number of physicians who had their medical licenses or privileges suspended or revoked in 2011.
The overall national increase could be traced to the Florida Board of Medicine, whose total disciplinary actions increased by 54.4%. The state board also increased its revocation of medical licenses—from 95 in 2010 to 144 in 2011
Discipline statistics by state
Using a three-year average of FSMB data, Public Citizen ranked states based on the number of serious disciplinary actions per 1,000 physicians.
The states with the highest three-year rates of serious disciplinary actions were:
1. Wyoming (6.79 actions per 1,000 physicians);
2. Louisiana (5.58 actions);
3. Ohio (5.52 actions);
4. Delaware (5.32 actions);
5. New Mexico (5.28 actions);
6. Nebraska (4.70 actions);
7. Alaska (4.69 actions);
8. Oklahoma (4.65 actions);
9. Washington (4.45 actions); and
10. West Virginia (4.32 actions).
Meanwhile, the states with the lowest three-year rates of serious disciplinary actions were:
1. South Carolina (1.33 actions per 1,000 physicians);
2. District of Columbia (1.47 actions);
3. Minnesota (1.49 actions);
4. Massachusetts (1.66 actions);
5. Connecticut (1.82 actions);
6. Wisconsin (1.90 actions);
7. Rhode Island (2.02 actions);
8. Nevada (2.07 actions);
9. New Jersey (2.26 actions); and
10. Florida (2.28 actions).
However, FSMB president and CEO Humayun Chaudhry notes, "Because states operate with different financial resources, levels of autonomy, legal constraints, and staffing levels, the FSMB discourages using data from this report to compare or rank states" (Public Citizen report, 5/17; Robeznieks, Modern Healthcare, 5/17 [subscription required]; Robeznieks, Modern Physician, 5/18 [subscription required]).