State medical boards reported their most active year of oversight of America's physicians in 2004, meting out a record 5,502 "prejudicial actions" -- license revocations, suspensions and reprimands. The number jumped almost 20% from 2003, the sharpest yearly increase since 1994, according to an annual compilation by the Federation of State Medical Boards. The federation, which represents state medical boards in the U.S. and its territories, said there were 2,116 license revocations in 2004, nearly 19% more than in 2003. The leading reasons for the harshest form of punishment were substance abuse, unprofessional conduct and controlled-substance violations.
The federation's Annual Summary of Board Actions is available from the Federation Physician Data Center at fsmb.org. Consumers can conduct a national search on physicians and their disciplinary histories at docinfo.org, a database that includes more than 135,000 actions against approximately 46,000 physicians. The charge per report is $9.95. -- by Michael Romano