Thursday, April 1, 2010

5,721 disciplinary actions against physicians in 2009

According to an annual report from the Federation of State Medical Boards titled, Summary of Board Actions, state medical boards initiated 5,721 disciplinary actions against physicians in 2009. This is roughly a 6% increase from 2008.  You can view the 2009 annual report from the FSMB here.
Each year, the Federation of State Medical Boards publishes the Summary of Board Actions, a compilation of disciplinary actions initiated by its 70 member medical boards. In addition to providing disciplinary data, the report includes information about the context in which each board operates, including standards of proof required when prosecuting cases and the health care professions regulated. This year’s report includes disciplinary data for each board from 2005-09. During 2009, state medical boards took 5,721 actions against physicians, an increase of 342 actions over 2008. To view annual Summary of Board Actions reports since 1990, please go to “Physician Data Center” at
The FSMB emphasizes that the data from this report should not be used to compare or rank states. Why? Because each state operates with different financial resources, levels of autonomy, legal constraints and staffing levels. The Summary of Board Actions is most useful in tracking trends in physician discipline within each state over time.

Many physicians choose to leave clinical medicine for other reasons that don't involve problems with their medical license. They may be in good standing with the state medical board and with their specialty society. They may even spend some time practicing medicine part-time. I know quite a few physicians who volunteer at free clinics a few times per month. Others may staff a clinic once a week to spend time teaching residents and to serve as a preceptor.

Some physicians end up leaving clinical medicine because they encounter problems with their medical license. Some of these reasons may include: mistakes in professional judgment, drug and alcohol addictions, unprofessional conduct, criminal behavior, medical negligence, etc. These individuals may lose their license to practice medicine and they may be looking for a second chance to redeem their professional careers. Some who regain their medical licenses may not return to clinical medicine. Instead, they may choose to pursue alternative physician careers in administrative medicine or consulting.

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