Oct. 25, 2006 – Most state medical boards no not offer consumers enough accessible information about doctors with histories of harming patients, says a new report by a watchdog group.
Public Citizenâ€™s study, reported last week, found that disciplinary action taken against physicians is woefully underreported on the websites of many medical boards. The report additionally asserts that some sites provide information in a format that is not consumer friendly.
Medical boards license and regulate the practice of medicine in each state. They discipline practicing physicians for such infractions as patient abuse, substandard care and insurance fraud.
Consumers can use the information provided by medical boards when choosing a doctor. But Dr. Peter Lurie, deputy director of Public Citizenâ€™s Health Research Group, said in a press statement that the lack of information denies patients a "meaningful consumer choice."
"Clearly there is more work to be done to ensure that patients and their doctors have all the information they need to make informed choices about their medical care," Lurie said. "We urge people in all states to demand that their boards improve the quality of these important websites."
Twenty-three states have passed laws requiring medical boards to provide physician profiles to the public. Some 42 individual medical boards â€“ including some in states where a separate board oversees osteopaths â€“ have voluntarily offered such information, according to a 2006 report by the Federation of State Medical Boards.
Public Citizen researchers evaluated board websites using eight categories of criteria, including malpractice information, criminal-conviction information, and disciplinary actions taken by boards, hospitals and the federal government.
The report measured medical boards on a 100-point scale based on how much physician information was provided and website usability. The median overall score was 42.4, with New Jersey ranking the highest at 83.7 and North Dakota the lowest, scoring just 12.3.
Only 20 medical boards provide information about malpractice payouts, while fifteen offer criminal-conviction information. Just twelve board websites give consumers any access to hospital disciplinary actions, with four of those explaining the doctorâ€™s offense.