States' lack of licensing regulation could compromise patient safety

April 3, 2009

One out of every eight physicians has been inactive for at least a year in the state in which he is licensed, and most states do not require such physicians to undergo competency tests or retraining when they return to active practice, according to two studies at the University of Michigan.

One out of every eight physicians has been inactive for at least a year in the state in which he is licensed, and most states do not require such physicians to undergo competency tests or retraining when they return to active practice, according to two studies at the University of Michigan.

The studies, which appear in the February issue of the journal Pediatrics, caution that the lack of licensing regulation could compromise patient safety in some instances, according to researchers at the University of Michigan Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit and the American Board of Pediatrics.

In one study, the researchers conducted telephone interviews with all 64 state allopathic and osteopathic medical licensing boards in the United States and found only 34 percent of state boards query physicians about their clinical activity when they first receive their licenses and when they renew. Further, the study found that most states allow physicians to hold or renew active licenses even though they may not have cared for patients in years.