CENTER FOR JUSTICE & DEMOCRACY
CENTER FOR MEDICAL CONSUMERS
COMMISSION ON THE PUBLIC'S HEALTH SYSTEM
EMPIRE STATE CONSUMER PROJECT
NEW YORKERS FOR PATIENT & FAMILY EMPOWERMENT
NEW YORK PUBLIC INTEREST RESEARCH GROUP (NYPIRG)
PEGGY LILLIS FOUNDATION
PULSE OF NEW YORK
|For Immediate Release||FOR MORE INFORMATON:.|
|Thursday, May 15, 2014||Blair Horner 518 727 4506
Suzanne Mattei 646 465-3635
Arthur Levin 917 836-7596
REPORT: THREE-QUARTERS OF DOCTORS SANCTIONED FOR NEGLIGENCE CONTINUE TO PRACTICE; PATIENTS UNLIKELY TO KNOW THAT DOCTORS HAVE BEEN DISCIPLINED.
NEARLY 60 PERCENT OF HEALTH DEPARTMENT ACTIONS AGAINST NY DOCTORS BASED ON ACTIONS TAKEN BY OTHER STATES AND OTHER AGENCIES
NUMBER OF DOCTORS PRACTICING IN NEW YORK GREW AT A RATE THAT FAR OUTPACES OVERALL STATE POPULATION GROWTH
CONSUMER AND PATIENT RIGHTS GROUPS URGE STATE TO TAKE ACTION TO ALERT PUBLIC TO QUESTIONABLE DOCTORS
(Albany, N.Y.) Over three-quarters of doctors found sanctioned for negligence by the New York State Department of Health are allowed to continue to practice; that’s according to a report issued today by a coalition of consumer and patient groups. The report, “Questionable Doctors,” also argued that patients are likely clueless about the records of their doctors.
The report, which relied on data provided by the New York State government agencies, found:
- Over 77% of doctors found negligent by OPMC are allowed to continue to practice. It is highly likely that the patients of physicians who have been found guilty of negligence would want to know this information. However, it is highly unlikely that these patients were aware of their physician’s punishment.
- Nearly 60% of New York State actions against doctors were based on sanctions taken by other states, the federal government, or the courts, not directly as the result of an OPMC-initiated investigation. The OPMC database includes information about physicians that were not disciplinary in nature. When excluding those statistics from our analysis, about 60% of OPMC sanctions were based on findings of other enforcement agencies (other states, or the courts). While it is important that the OPMC act when another agency has punished a physician, it is the more critical task of identifying and punishing misconduct by doctors who are currently active in New York State that must occupy the attention of OPMC investigators. Health care providers are generating few of these complaints.
- There has been a staggering increase in the number of doctors per capita in New York State, well in excess of the increase in the state’s population. One of the arguments as to why New York State does not revoke questionable doctors’ licenses is that they are an important resource. However, over the past ten years, New York’s population has grown by about 2%. Its doctor population has swelled by 36%.
- The Health Department has failed to update its “annual report” on OPMC’s physician discipline activities. The most recent report, for 2010, shows that very few complaints originate from those who are among the most likely to observe misconduct – other physicians. Moreover, the information published in this now out-of-date report masks OPMC’s activity level of aggregating sanctions stemming from its own direct investigations as well as actions based on the investigations of other states or entities. Thus, members of the public would incorrectly infer that OPMC is engaging in a higher level of in-state performance than actually is occurring.
The groups urged Governor Cuomo and state legislators to enact reforms that protect patients. This report calls on policymakers to:
- Require that all licensed health facilities and physicians’ offices post information on how patients and other members of the public can access the physician profiles program. The public should have easy access to physicians’ background information. Such a requirement would allow consumers to have access to the website that would allow them to file a complaint against a doctor or other health provider (http://www.health.ny.gov/professionals/doctors/conduct/file_a_complaint.htm), ensure that patients are aware of the state’s physician profiles (www.nydoctorprofile.com), and provide access to the OPMC database of its actions against doctors and other providers (http://www.health.state.ny.us/nysdoh/opmc/main.htm).
In addition, all patients of physicians who have had any limitation placed on their license must be notified in a timely manner.
- Create an OPMC consumer assistance office. A consumer-friendly office should be created to help consumers navigate the complaint process, better understand when a complaint is appropriate for OPMC and if not, redirect inquiries to other relevant agencies.
- Require health care providers who harm patients as a result of a medical mistake to tell the patient or patient’s family when such a mistake occurs. Physicians are required by their own code of ethics to report medical mistakes even if such admission exposes them to liability. The force of law should back up this common sense ethical requirement by ensuring that failure to do so constitute misconduct.
- Require periodic recertification of physicians to include assessment of competency. Over time, physicians may see some of their skills erode and it is critically important for them to keep current with the latest medical research and advances in technology. In an effort to identify physicians with eroding skills or knowledge before a patient gets harmed, routine periodic evaluation of competency should be required as a condition of continued licensure and recertification.