We have previously written on this blog about the authority and duty of state medical boards in matters of licensing and discipline of physicians. State medical boards are relatively autonomous in what they do, and each state board utilizes different procedures and standards in licensing and discipline. It isn’t surprising, then, that some states are considered to be more lenient while other are considered stricter.
A recent study which was conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan and published in the health journal BMJ Quality & Safety found that disciplinary action varies widely among the states, with some states showing its doctors are four times more likely to be disciplined or to pay medical malpractice claims than doctors in other states.
Interestingly, Minnesota is among a group of states found to have the most lenient medical boards. The study is not the first to find that Minnesota’s medical board has a “poor” record of physician discipline. Back in 2009, Public Citizen’s Health Research Group ranked Minnesota as the “worst” state in terms of physician discipline.
The authors of the study acknowledged that some degree of variation in rates of physician discipline among state medical boards is to be expected, but that states on the extremes would be well advised to reexamine their standards. One issue with calculation of physician discipline rates is that there are a variety of factors at play. Certainly, a Minnesota physician should not forego an experienced advocate in disciplinary proceedings on the grounds that the medical board has been deemed lenient. Every case, regardless of the circumstances, should be met with a strong defense.
AJMC.com, “States Vary Widely in Regulations, Procedures for Punishing Wrongdoing Among Doctors,” March 30, 2016.
Healthcare Dive, “Report ranks best and worst locales for doctors to work,” Meg Bryant, March 29, 2016.
Public Citizen, “Public Citizen Releases Annual Ranking of State Medical Boards: California, Florida Join List of Ten Worst States in Disciplining Doctors; Minnesota Is Overall Worst State While Alaska Is Best,” April 20, 2009.