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Consumer group ranks state medical boards

The Public Citizen consumer group released a ranking of state medical boards based on data from the Federation of State Medical Boards.

Hawaii was ranked last and Wyoming was ranked the best, based on the number of disciplinary actions taken against doctors in 2002 to 2004. The group calculated the rate of serious disciplinary actions per 1,000 doctors in each state for each year, compiling a national report ranking state boards by the average rate of serious disciplinary actions per 1,000 doctors for the years 2002 to 2004.

Serious disciplinary actions include revocations, surrenders, suspensions and probation/restrictions. Five of the 15-lowest ranking states (Wisconsin, Minnesota, Tennessee, Delaware and Hawaii) have been in the bottom 15 states for the past 10 three-year periods, as well as six of these 15 states occupying the bottom 15 for at least five of the past three- year periods.

Director of Public Citizen, Dr. Sidney Wolfe, questions how well patients residing in the states are being protected. The failure to implement serious doctor discipline may be contributing to more instances of medical malpractice in these states whereas in states that are doing a better job of disciplining physicians they might have already been barred from practice.

The bottoms 10 states with the lowest serious disciplinary action rates for 2002 to 2004 included Hawaii, Delaware, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Maryland, Nevada, Rhode Island, Arkansas, South Carolina and Washington. The top 10 states are Wyoming, Kentucky, North Dakota, Alaska, Oklahoma, Arizona, Ohio, Montana, Colorado and West Virginia. These were the same top 10 states that were also in the top 10 in last year's three-year ranking.

Wolfe thinks that most states are not adequately protecting patients from doctors who are not practicing medicine up to the standards that should be expected, risking injury and even death. In order to improve medical care, Wolfe thinks that state deficiencies must be identified and actions legislatively and through medical boards must increase physician discipline.

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