Mississippis state medical board is the least effective at disciplining physicians and Alaskas is the best, according to the Public Citizen Health Research Groups annual state rankings released last week.
The rankings are based on a three-year average of serious disciplinary actionsdefined as license revocations, surrenders, suspensions and probations/restrictionstaken in each state as compiled by the Federation of State Medical Boards. A serious-actions-per-thousand-doctors rate is then calculated using American Medical Association figures on a states physician workforce.
The Mississippi State Board of Medical Licensure issued only 1.41 serious actions per 1,000 doctors compared with the Alaska State Medical Boards rate of 7.3. Just ahead of Mississippi were: Minnesota and South Carolina, 1.45; South Dakota, 1.52; and Nevada, 1.68. Just behind Alaska were: Kentucky, 7.1; Wyoming, 6.37; Ohio, 6.01; Oklahoma, 5.54; and Missouri, 5.43.
In all, 2,916 serious actions were taken against the nations 918,350 physicians, resulting in a rate of 3.18 per 1,000 physicians.
A tiny fraction of physicians are doing an enormous amount of harm: Five percent of physicians account for 50% of malpractice payouts, said Sidney Wolfe, director of the Public Citizen Health Research Group. He added that, according to the National Practitioner Data Bank, the majority of physicians who have recorded five to 10 malpractice payouts have never been disciplined.
New to the report this year are links to the Web sites of the 10 poorest-performing boards so readers can comment directly. The heads of the medical boards should hear from people that they are not happy, Wolfe said, adding that public pressure often spurs states to add resources or make leadership changes to their medical boards.
Some state boards have seen tremendous improvement in their ranking over the past three years, such as Missouri, which improved to sixth after being 31st, and Hawaii, which is now 33rd after finishing last at No. 51 three years ago.
Jo Ann Uchida, a complaint and enforcement officer in Hawaiis Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, said the improvement was a collaborative effort that brought attorneys and field investigators into the process earlier to help focus complaint investigations, gave staff special training for medical investigations and put attention on the most serious cases. This was all done without adding staff or funding or reducing staff duties. The department is still responsible for investigating complaints against other licensed professionals such as beauticians and animal groomers.
Weve tried to do as much as we can with what we have, Uchida said. Weve been moving up in the rankings every year now, and we hope to continue that improvement.