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Illinois Conducting Incomplete Background Checks on Doctors

It seems unbelievable, but it’s true: Last year, the Illinois Department of Financial & Professional Regulation (IDFPR) did not conduct a single National Practitioner Database (NPDB) background check on any physician applying for a license in the state. Information obtained from the NPDB is considered a fundamental part of the review process in granting a physician a license. The federally-sponsored database includes information on infractions, including citations for improper conduct by state medical boards and hospitals. Information regarding malpractice lawsuits are also included. By federal law, these groups must submit physician data to the NPDB, something other databases containing physician information cannot claim.

 

It’s Always About Money

According to a Chicago Tribune investigation, half of penalties handed out by the IDFPR in 2012 were for actions another state’s medical board had already disciplined them for. 100 physicians were disciplined based on another state’s information. That same year, less than 30 doctors were penalized after being cited for failure to diagnose a patient or committing some other form of medical error or oversight within Illinois. According to experts, the reason is due to costs. It is easier to go after a physician when another state has already done the leg work and the IDFPR simply does not have the time, nor resources to do a thorough investigation.

Illinois, due largely in part to being home to a major city like Chicago, is also home to several large hospital networks and hundreds of thousands of clinics, practices, and nursing homes. As a result, Illinois is an attractive job market for physicians, obviously creating an abundance of work for a licensing agency such as IDFPR. It makes sense that the costs of conducting thorough background checks on each physician seeking a new or renewal license in the state are prohibitive. It currently costs $2 per physician query on the NPDB. The current physician licensure fee is $700. Why can’t $2 or even $5-$10 be added to the licensure fee to pay for IDFPR staff to spend the time to check all reliable resources for information pertaining to prior disciplinary action, malpractice lawsuits, and other pertinent data? It’s hard to imagine another profession in which finding out as much as possible about a potential job candidate would be more important.