Investigation Into Doctors Who Evade Consequences

When we go to the doctor, we want to trust that the doctor will provide us with the best care possible. Oftentimes, people conduct searches on their doctor before going to see them to ensure that the doctors are high quality and have not had disciplinary actions taken against them. Unfortunately, even if people conduct research on their doctor, they may be unable to find important information about past disciplinary actions. A recent investigation conducted by MedPage Today and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has revealed some startling news that at least 500 doctors who have been disciplined by one state’s medical board have been able to begin practicing in a different state with no documentation of the past discipline on their record.

The investigation looked into the years 2011-2016 and found that during that time 500 or more doctors who were disciplined in one state, were able to move to a new state and begin practicing under an unblemished license. The transgressions committed by the doctors found in the investigation range from sexual harassment of patients to botched surgeries to ignoring complications in their patients. These actions have resulted in suspensions, revocation of licenses, remedial classes and/or letters of concern about the doctor. Although there have been consequences in one state, these 500 doctors have been able to start practicing in a new state because of lags and gaps in the medical licensing system.

30 years ago, the National Practitioners Data Bank was created.  The data bank was intended to keep state medical boards and hospitals informed of physician transgressions from around the country. The information that is in the data bank is confidential and is frequently not taken into account by state medical boards. Within the country, there are 62 medical licensing boards. Each licensing board has different rules and the rules can vary drastically from board to board. There is a lot of variation in the information that each medical board provides about its doctors.

This has allowed doctors with serious transgressions in one state, to slip through the cracks and practice in another state. Sadly, the 500 doctors that the investigation discovered, is likely an underestimate of the problem as it only identifies doctors where a public agency took a public action. There are most likely incidents where physician transgressions went unreported.

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