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Difficulties in monitoring a doctor's disciplinary history

A New Mexico resident might want to learn about a physician's record before making an appointment, but it could actually be difficult to find this information. A Consumer Reports study has evaluated the issue of patient safety and access to pertinent information, and the results are somewhat troubling. The types of offenses for which a physician might face discipline could include the use of controlled substances, addiction, inappropriate contact with a patient or unprofessional behavior. However, state governments often make these details difficult to find.

Access to databases detailing issues such as physician errors is often limited, preventing patients from reviewing past malpractice actions that have been filed against their doctor. Statistics indicate that since 1990, approximately 50 percent of medical malpractice payouts have been attributed to situations involving less than 2 percent of the physicians in the country. Although there have been calls to require that physicians advise their patients of probation or other disciplinary consequences, health care observers suggest that this would deeply harm the relationships between physicians and patients.

The Consumer Reports study includes a review of medical board websites for various states, which could help patients with concerns to understand more about their own states' efficiency in making relevant information available to the public. People who have suspicions about their physician might seek additional information by visiting a website for their state medical board to search for possible action against the party in question.

People whose health have been poorly managed by a physician may want to discuss their concerns with a lawyer if there is reason to believe that serious harm has occurred. Not all adverse medical situations are caused by physician error, but patients who are unsure of the connection between inappropriate physician actions and a poor medical outcome may clarify their understanding of their situation with a lawyer's insight.

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