Colorado’s doctors face right amount of discipline

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Colorado is one of the top 10 states when it comes to serious disciplinary actions for doctors – and this, according to publiccitizen.org, is good news.

The state had 4.5 actions – including revocations, surrenders, suspensions and probations – for every 1,000 doctors, making it ninth of 10 states. The other states with the most disciplinary actions per doctor were Alaska, Kentucky, Ohio, Arizona, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Louisiana, Iowa and Maine.

The states with the lowest number of disciplinary actions per doctor were Minnesota, South Carolina, Wisconsin, Mississippi, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Maryland, Florida, California and Georgia.

“These data demonstrate a remarkable variability in the rates of serious disciplinary actions taken by the state boards” said Sidney Wolfe, author of the study. “Only one of the nation’s 15 most populous states is represented among those 10 states with the highest disciplinary rates. Absent any evidence that the prevalence of physicians deserving no discipline varies substantially from state to state, this variability must be considered as a result of the boards’ practices.”

Wolfe said there is “considerable” evidence that most boards are under-disciplining physicians.

“For example, in a report on doctors disciplined for criminal activity, 67 percent of insurance fraud convictions and 36 percent of convictions related to controlled substances were associated with only non-severe discipline by the boards,” he said.

Boards are likely to do a better job in disciplining physicians if the following conditions are met:

  • Adequate funding – all money from license fees going to fund board activities instead of going to the state treasury.
  • Adequate staffing.
  • Proactive investigations – rather than only reacting to complaints.
  • The use of all available/reliable data from other sources such as Medicare and Medicaid disciplinary data, hospital sanctions, malpractice payouts and the criminal justice system.
  • Independence from state medical societies.
  • Independence from other parts of state government.
  • A reasonable legal standard for disciplining doctors – preponderance of the evidence rather than beyond a reasonable doubt.

Age-related illness grants

Researchers will have additional money to prevent, treat and find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma.

The American Health Association Foundation gave overall awards of $6.4 million to researchers in the United States, Australia, Germany and Great Britain. The 40 grants ranged from $50,000 to $400,000.

The group provided $1.04 million for age related macular degeneration; $4.4 million to Alzheimer’s research and $923,022 for glaucoma research.

The organizations that receive the awards will cover a wide array of topics, including the fundamental molecular changes that lead to development of the diseases.

An estimated 26 million people worldwide have Alzheimer’s disease. By 2050, as many as 15 million Americans could be affected.

About 1.8 million Americans 40 years and older have advanced age-related macular degeneration, which causes deterioration of the macula, the central area of the eye’s retina that processes sharp, clear, straight ahead vision.

Another 7.3 million have intermediated age related macular degeneration.

Glaucoma affects 65 million people, and is the leading cause of blindness worldwide.

Amy Gillentine covers health care for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.