Study shows Illinois agency relies heavily on other states’ inquiries as basis for physician discipline

Disciplinary actions hold physicians accountable for medical errors, improper diagnosis and other types of medical malpractice. They allow state medical boards to work with and examine doctors. However, a recent review of data by the Chicago Tribune revealed that the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation takes a relatively small number of independent disciplinary actions against doctors, choosing instead to rely on other states’ investigations.

The review found that the department took action against fewer than 30 Illinois doctors for improper diagnosis or medical errors. However, the agency disciplined more than 100 physicians after other states’ medical boards found they had provided improper care or engaged in misconduct. Nationally, Illinois presents one of the highest out-of-state investigation reliance rates.

In one case, the Illinois medical board received a letter stating that a doctor had committed a medical error that resulted in a patient’s death. In a deposition, he admitted that he falsified records to cover up the mistake. The letter arrived three years ago, but the agency has taken no apparent disciplinary action against the physician.

Patient advocates said that taking action after another state has done so is important, because it helps prevent an incompetent doctor from simply practicing in another state. However, those cases are also the easiest to pursue, and experts say that an overreliance on such cases may indicate that the medical board is not working on the more difficult investigations.

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