According to a recent study from the University of Michigan, there is significant variation in how state medical boards regulate physicians. Differences in things like reporting procedures, disciplinary methods and standards for determining appropriate discipline all make a difference–sometimes significant–in how physicians accused of misconduct are handled.

The study looked, among other things, at the frequency of disciplinary action taken by state medical boards, and found that the mean rates of disciplinary action per 1000 physicians were anywhere from 2.13 p to 7.13. The interstate rates for major disciplinary actions varied significantly as well, ranging from 0.64 per 1000 physicians to 2.71. 

While there isn’t necessarily any correct numbers when it comes to physician discipline, major differences in disciplinary action rates can indicate that something is off in states falling into the extremes. Disciplinary actions taken by a state’s medical board does vary from year to year as a matter of course, though, so any solid conclusions could only be made in light of long-term observation. That being said, a state medical board’s disciplinary record can tell one the kind of issues that state’s medical board is dealing with, and how they tend to handle them.

For those who are harmed by a negligent physician, disciplinary action can be an important way to obtain justice for a physician’s wrongdoing when medical malpractice litigation is, for one reason or another, determined not to be a desirable option. Navigating a state medical board’s complaint process doesn’t always require an attorney, but having guidance from an experienced advocate can help ensure an injured patient does his part to seek justice through this avenue.