License Overdrive: Updated website makes tracking doctors’ missteps easier
If doctors want to be able to move from state to state with one license, their patients will have a dilemma. They won’t be able to easily find out about their doctors’ histories because licensing information continues to be mostly a state-by-state affair.
If a doctor moves from Alaska to Florida, for example, patients in Florida would have to know to go to the website for Alaska’s Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development and cross their fingers that they would be able to hit upon the right combination of search terms to actually yield a result.
The Federation of State Medical Boards is pushing for an interstate compact that will make it easier for doctors to practice in multiple states. And the federation is trying to make physician licensing histories more transparent, too. For years, the federation ran a website called DocInfo that gave people a window into the operations of a large number of state medical boards. It was a little clunky. And you had to pay to use it. But it was a good first stop for patients considering a new physician or having trouble with their current physician.
In August, the federation overhauled the site and made it more comprehensive. They also made it free. Sarah Wickline Wallan at MedPage Today wrote:
The data come from the FSMB's own Physician Data Center, which is continuously updated by 70 state medical and osteopathic boards in the U.S., all of its territories, and the District of Columbia. Physician specialty certification information is also available thanks to the American Board of Medical Specialties and the American Osteopathic Association.
I test drove the new site and was pleased with how intuitive it was and how quickly it generated results. As with all searchable databases, though, it’s only as good as the underlying data.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that the site performs quite well on this measure. I tried searching for some of the physicians with disciplinary histories I have written about in the past and found very few gaps. Out of 20 doctors, the site yielded all but two. Here are some examples:
Frank Joseph Ilardi. He lost his license in New York after being accused of exercising undue influence on a patient, willfully abusing a patient and sexual contact with a patient. There’s no record of Ilardi on DocInfo.
Robbi Borjeson. In Arizona, she failed to treat a patient but instead prayed for him saying that she was going to “remove his illness through me.” After a malpractice case, a judge awarded the patient a $1.5 million judgment against Borjeson. Her profile on DocInfo links to the Arizona medical board site and, with a search, you can find the documents about her reprimand and her license revocation.
Dan Stephen Hollis. Hollis was indicted by federal prosecutors in Georgia for prescribing drugs to patients through an internet pharmacy without examining them. His file on DocInfo takes you to the websites for the medical boards in Georgia and Alabama. The Georgia site gets you to the relevant disciplinary information fairly quickly. The Alabama site takes a little more digging but, ultimately, delivers. (Hollis, by the way, provided some insights into his own case in an interview with me that are relevant for any policy change that would make it easier for doctors to operate in multiple states.)
In a perfect world, the site would contain all the disciplinary information and not force users to travel to other websites and repeat their searches. But having spent a lot of time hunting around on multiple agency websites in all 50 states, I can say that one portal that directs you to all the other places is still a step forward. In short, the new DocInfo is free. It’s easy. And it’s fairly complete. There’s certain to be a catch in there somewhere, so please let me know if you find one.
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[Photo by NEC via Flickr.]