By JESSE A. MARKOS, ESQ.
Wachler & Associates, P.C
Disciplinary actions against healthcare providers have decreased significantly during the past year according to figures provided by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This development may be evidence of a general easing of heavy-handed enforcement in state licensing disciplinary proceedings and hospital professional review actions based on technical violations during the Covid-19 pandemic and the result of an increased appreciation for providers serving on the front lines of the crises.
Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, the United States was already facing a shortage of healthcare providers. A report by the Association of American Medical Colleges projected a shortage of between 46,900 and 121,900 physicians by 2032. Moreover, the healthcare system will also likely face a shortage of tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of other healthcare providers such as nurse practitioners and registered nurses.
The outbreak of COVID-19 has stretched the staffing resources of the healthcare system to unprecedented levels. Adding to the demand for already scarce providers, hospitals have scrambled to find additional frontline workers like emergency medicine physicians and nurses. During this period of mounting shortage, disciplinary actions against physicians have dropped significantly according to figures published by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
By way of background, the Department of Health and Human Services operates the National Practitioner Data Bank. This Data Bank is an alert system that collects and discloses certain adverse information about physicians and other health care providers such as state licensing disciplinary actions and hospital staff privileging corrective action.
According to the figures gathered by the Data Bank, disciplinary actions against doctors during the Covid-19 pandemic were down approximately 15 percent from the previous year. Similarly, the total number of clinical privileges limited or suspended during the Covid-19 pandemic were down around 9 percent.
This development may reflect an overall easing of heavy-handed enforcement in disciplinary matters based on technical violations at a time when the shortage of providers is most critical. An adverse report to the Data Bank can significantly impact a health care provider’s reputation and career. State licensing authorities, hospitals and other health care entities, and professional societies search the Data Bank when investigating qualifications. A response that contains an adverse report can act as a permanent blackmark and result in a denial of credentialing, loss or limitation of hospital privileges, loss or limitation of licensure, exclusion from participation in health plans, and increases in premiums or exclusion from professional liability insurance. Although disciplinary proceedings have declined during this period of increased appreciation for providers serving on the front lines of the crises, the total number of adverse actions remains significant. For additional information or assistance regarding state licensing, hospital staff privileging, or any other health care related issue, please contact Jesse A. Markos, Esq., of Wachler & Associates, P.C., at (248) 544-0888.