Doc cops

The toughest states for physician discipline

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.

For the study, the consumer watchdog group analyzed a three-year average of Federation of State Medical Boards data to rank states based on the number of serious disciplinary actions, such as license revocations, probations, restrictions, surrenders and suspensions, per 1,000 physicians.

The report found that between 2008 and 2010 the Louisiana State Board of Medical Examiners was the most stringent board, ordering 5.98 serious actions per 1,000 physicians, followed by Alaska (5.47) and Ohio (5.36). Meanwhile, the Minnesota Board of Medical Practice finished in 51st place for the third straight year, ordering 1.29 serious actions per 1,000 physicians. South Carolina (1.31) and Wisconsin (1.59) finished in 50th place and 49th place, respectively.

Overall, states' average score was 2.97, a 3% decrease over 2009's average score of 3.05 and a 20% decline from 2004, when the average score peaked at 3.72. According to the director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group, state budget constraints may be one reason why medical boards are taking less disciplinary action against physicians (Public Citizen rankings, 5/12; Robeznieks, Modern Physician, 5/12 [subscription required]; Conaboy, "White Coat Notes," Boston Globe, 5/12).