The percentage of physicians who have been disciplined rose 10% from 2002 to 2003the largest 1-year increase in nearly a decade. An annual summary of board actions by the Federation of State Medical Boards found that state licensing boards took 4,590 disciplinary actions against physicians in 2003 versus 4,169 in 2002.
Reform within licensing boards to improve how they process complaints, regulate physicians, or conduct business is cited by the federation as one contributing factor to increased disciplinary action against physicians, according to American Medical News (4/26/04). The federation also cited greater awareness of patient safety among the public and a growing physician population.
Disagreeing with the federation, however, is the Public Citizen's Health Research Group. The group, which has spoken out against the allegedly lax discipline by state boards, said the increase in disciplinary action when weighed against the physician population is "negligible," reported Modern Healthcare (4/12/04).
Weighing disciplinary actions versus physician population, there were 5.6 actions per 1,000 nonfederal doctors in 2003, up slightly from about 5.3 actions per 1,000 doctors in 2002.