No Uniform System for Monitoring and Implementing Disciplinary Action Against Doctors

A recent University of Michigan Medical study recently examined the disparity between the number of doctors who are disciplined or pay a malpractice claim from state to state within the United States.  In many instances, the study concluded the percentage of physicians who are disciplined or pay to settle a malpractice claim is 4x higher in some states than in others.  Concluding that there was unlikely to be a "4-fold difference in the behavior of doctors from state to state," the study found that the "the reason for this difference lies in the wide variation between states' regulations, procedures and resources for punishing physician wrongdoing." 

The study, published in the BMJ Quality and Safety Journal, relied on information/data from the National Practitioner Data Bank, which covers all 50 sates and the District of Columbia for the years 2000-2014.  The data that was analyzed included information concerning actions taken by state medical boards against doctors for wide-range of wrongdoing, including settlements, fines, suspensions of medical licenses or periodic monitoring. 

Interestingly, the study concluded that, on the whole, within the United States, there are 3.75 disciplinary actions each year for every 1000 practicing physicians, 1.15 of which involve serious wrongdoings.  The disparity between the states was of considerable import with 7.93 actions of any kind per 1000 physicians in Delaware to 2.13 per 1000 in Massachusetts.  The study found that Delaware, Kentucky and Ohio had the highest adjusted rates for all disciplinary action while the states of Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut had the lowest.   Maryland fell approximately in the middle. 

So what accounts for this disparity and the high number of disciplinary actions in other states?   Chief among the listed reasons is the fact that the United States, unlike other countries in the world, lacks a national system for regulating and punished physicians' wrongdoings.  This allows states to mete out punishment or no punishment in diverging and non-uniformed manner.  The end result is a system that really isn't a system.  It is one of moving parts that do not interact or work together to create a situation in which punishment is standardized or even known.  

At STSW, our lawyers routinely handle medical malpractice actions within the state of Maryland and Washington D.C.  We also routinely interaction with the Maryland Board of Physicians, the body charged with meting out discipline against health care providers for various wrongdoings.  If you or a loved one have been victimized by a health care provider, call our lawyers at 410-385-2225.