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Boston — State Auditor Suzanne Bump today announced that the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine (Board) has initiated new processes in conjunction with the Executive Office of the Trial Court to better ensure information about physician criminal activity is collected and reported in online public profiles. Increased cooperation and coordination between the two comes in response to an audit of the Board which identified lapses in communication and public reporting.
“The people of the Commonwealth deserve the opportunity to be fully informed and feel secure when entering their physician’s office,” said Auditor Bump. “I’m encouraged by the Board and the Trial Court’s willingness to accept our recommendations and to work collaboratively to develop a criminal information collection and reporting process that is more timely and transparent.”
To assist the public in making informed healthcare decisions, the Board is responsible for collecting information reported to it about licensed physicians, including criminal activity, and maintaining an accurate and complete online profile for each physician that is available to the public. From 2002 through 2012, files showed the Board received only two reports of criminal activity for licensed physicians from state courts. When reviewing Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) for the same 11-year period, auditors found 82 other physicians with either a criminal conviction or a continuation without a finding that were not reported to the Board. State law requires such information to be collected by the Board so that it can conduct investigations, take disciplinary action as necessary, and update physician public profiles accordingly.
In response to the audit’s findings, the Board and courts have agreed to exchange information and implement an automatic electronic process to improve the frequency and timeliness of reporting physician criminal activity.
“The Board of Registration in Medicine values the recommendations made by Auditor Bump in her 2010 -2012 performance review of our agency and looks forward to ongoing collaboration with the Trial Court in the development of an automated reporting system,” stated Acting Executive Director Barbara Piselli. “This collaboration will assist the Board in its mission of ensuring patient safety and transparency in the licensing of physicians in Massachusetts.”
Trial Court Chief Justice Paula M. Carey said, "Court Administrator Harry Spence and I are committed to fulfilling this reporting requirement as efficiently and as accurately as possible. We have already been in conversations with the Board of Medicine regarding these findings and have agreed upon a preliminary approach for a routine matching of the Board of Medicine Records with Trial Court records to address any identified shortcomings."
The audit also found the Board has not conducted periodic reviews of the information on its online physician database, resulting in missing and inconsistent information on physician profiles. Auditor Bump recommended that Board include more specific and relevant information to describe the reasons for different disciplinary action.
In addition, the Board did not complete various documents to substantiate that it has taken the measures necessary to reasonably ensure the security, confidentiality, and integrity of personal information residing in its application systems.
The Office of the State Auditor conducts technical and performance audits of state government’s programs, departments, agencies, authorities, contracts, and vendors. With its reports, the OSA issues recommendations to improve accountability, efficiency, and transparency.
The Board of Registration in Medicine audit is available here.