Oregon Medical Board needs to improve disciplinary process, audit finds

Luisa Anderson (KGW)

PORTLAND, Oregon — The Oregon Medical Board should make systematic changes to consistently and equitably discipline health care professionals in order to protect patients, according to an Oregon Secretary of State audit released on Wednesday.

The agency has formal policies and procedures in place to investigate medical complaints, but its current process for comparing disciplinary decisions is “generally informal and intermittent,” the audit states. Auditors also said OMB’s current data system doesn’t allow the agency to easily analyze its decisions to discipline health care professionals.

“While OMB has done qualitative reviews to try to ensure consistency, the database hinders OMB’s ability to conduct routine, systematic data analysis to help assure the public and licensees that similar cases result in consistent and equitable disciplinary outcomes,” the audit said.

The medical board is entrusted with protecting patients while licensing and overseeing different groups of health care professionals in the state. One of its key roles is to investigate complaints against licensees, conduct investigations when there’s a potential violation of Oregon’s Medical Practice Act, and impose disciplinary action. The agency receives about 700 to 800 complaints each year, according to the audit.

RELATED: What patients should know about the Oregon Medical Board

The report urged the board to do more to protect patients and maintain public trust, including implementing better disciplinary guidelines and routinely analyzing its disciplinary decisions for equity and consistency, the audit states.

“If licensees are disciplined inconsistently or inequitably, especially as the result of racial bias or discrimination, it can have the effect of limiting the representation of people of color in medical professions,” the audit states. “This can contribute to continued disparities in medical treatment and health outcomes for these communities.”

Click here to read the full audit

“The OMB is committed to consistent and equitable outcomes in our investigations,” OMB Executive Director Nicole Krishnaswami wrote in a letter responding to the audit. “We agree with the report’s findings and the four recommendations which directly align with the OMB’s mission and values.”

Oregon Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade released a statement.

“Oregonians count on state government to regulate health care professionals in a manner that’s fair and equitable,” Griffin-Valade said. “Much like the Oregon Medical Board, our office is committed to seeing state government protect public health and maintain trust.”

RELATED: KGW investigation reveals how doctors are allowed to keep practicing despite being accused of serious violations

The audit comes months after a KGW investigative documentary, Sick Medicine, examined what happens when state medical boards fail to stop doctors accused of significant wrongdoing from practicing medicine. The documentary uncovered cases where doctors were allowed to continue practicing medicine even after being credibly accused of serious misconduct, including sexual abuse or gross negligence that lead to the death of a patient.

In some cases, doctors escaped their troubled pasts by simply moving states and continuing to practice medicine. KGW analyzed OMB records and found that of the 144 medical professionals disciplined in the state between 2012 and 2022, 28 of them went on to practice medicine in another state.

Over the course of the investigation, KGW requested an interview with the OMB and contacted each member individually. The OMB declined an interview.

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Taylar Ansures is a producer and reporter for NBC5 News. Taylar is from Redding, California and went to California State University, Chico. After graduating, she joined KRCR News Channel 7 in Redding as a morning producer. She moved to Southern Oregon in 2022 to be closer to family and became KTVL News 10’s digital producer. Taylar is currently finishing her Master's Degree in Professional Creative Writing through the University of Denver. In her free time, Taylar frequents independent bookstores and explores hiking trails across Southern Oregon and Northern California.
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