If you’re looking for information about your doctor, you may find yourself searching the website of the state medical board. In states across the country, those are the agencies that license physicians and also discipline them for offenses including sexual misconduct, substance abuse, and negligent care. But the accuracy and completeness of the information you find varies from state to state, according to a new analysis from Consumer Reports, which ranked the Connecticut Medical Examining Board as 15th in the nation for the information readily available to the public from the agency website.
Consumer Reports Safe Patient Project partnered with the nonprofit Informed Patient Institute to evaluate the websites of state medical boards in all 50 states. They found that most are difficult to navigate and the information on them varies widely.
Overall scores were based on eight categories: Search Capabilities, Complaint and Board Information, Identifying Doctor Information, Board Disciplinary Actions, Hospital Disciplinary Actions, Federal Disciplinary Actions, Malpractice Payouts and Convictions.
Connecticut, with an overall score of 58, was rated good in four categories, very good in two, and excellent in one category. Only one category was given a poor rating.
The highest rated state medical board websites were in California (84), New York (79), Massachusetts (78), Illinois (76), North Carolina (76), Virginia (72), New Jersey (70), Florida (70) and Texas (68).
The Federation of State Medical Boards, which represents the boards and facilitates communication among them, acknowledges that variation is a potential issue. “Consistency is certainly a worthy goal,” Lisa Robin, chief advocacy officer for the organization told Consumer Reports. “Looking at the disciplinary trends to make improvements in the system … we would always encourage that.” Still, she also says that, “the rate of discipline alone is probably not a good picture of really what the boards do and how well they’re able to protect patients in their state.”
But, as Consumer Reports’ analysis found, those state boards fall short in other measures, too. In fact, in many instances, physicians who have been severely disciplined continue to practice while their offenses remain relatively hidden, buried deep on the boards' websites or unavailable entirely online.
The Connecticut Medical Examining Board website includes a listing of disciplinary actions taken by the Connecticut Medical Examining Board or the Connecticut Department of Public Health but notes that “information is not intended for licensure verification purposes.” Actions taken – ranging from reprimands to civil penalties to license suspension or revocation are listed. Board meeting minutes are also available on the site, as well as procedures for individuals to file complaints.