Disciplinary action against physicians: who is likely to get disciplined?

Am J Med. 2005 Jul;118(7):773-7. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2005.01.051.


Purpose: We sought to determine the characteristics of disciplined physicians at-large and the risk of disciplinary action over time and to report the type and frequency of complaints and the nature of disciplinary actions against allopathic physicians in Oklahoma.

Methods: Descriptive statistics, Kaplan-Meier analysis, and Cox proportional hazards modeling of publicly available data on physicians licensed by the Oklahoma Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision.

Results: Among 14,314 currently or previously licensed physicians, 396 (2.8%) had been disciplined. Using univariate proportional hazards analysis, men (P <0.04), non-whites (P < 0.001), non-board-certified physicians (P < 0.001), and those in family medicine (P < 0.001), psychiatry (P < 0.001), general practice (P < 0.001), obstetrics-gynecology (P < 0.03) and emergency medicine (P < 0.001) were found to be at greater risk of being disciplined than other medical specialty groups. Foreign medical graduates had a higher risk of disciplinary action compared to US medical graduates (P < 0.001), although this finding was not confirmed by multivariate analysis. Kaplan-Meier analysis revealed that the proportion of physicians disciplined increased with each successive 10-year interval since first licensure. Complaints against physicians originated most often from the general public (66%), other physicians (5%), and staff (4%), and the complaints most frequently involved issues related to quality of care (25%), medication/prescription violations (19%), incompetence (18%), and negligence (17%).

Conclusion: To improve physician behavior and reduce the need for disciplinary action, medical schools and residency training programs must continue to emphasize both patient care and medical professionalism as critical core competencies.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Employee Discipline / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Licensure, Medical / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oklahoma
  • Physician Impairment / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Physicians / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Professional Misconduct* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Punishment*
  • Retrospective Studies