Checking Your Doctor’s Background | The Dangers of Medical Peer Reviews

  • September 20, 2019 | Read Time: 3 Minutes
Checking Your Doctor's Background | The Dangers of Medical Peer Reviews

Every patient deserves to be treated by reliable and well-trained medical professionals.

If a doctor or nurse has a history of misconduct or complaints, patients deserve access to that information.

Yet, in Colorado, there are certain regulatory roadblocks in place that make true transparency difficult.

Unfortunately, in far too many cases, patients are denied relevant information about physicians, nurses, and hospitals.

Colorado’s medical peer review law is a big part of the problem. A law and a system that was originally designed to encourage hospitals and other medical providers to conduct rigorous investigations of potential misconduct is now too often used as a tool to conceal adverse information from patients and the general public.

In this article, our Denver, CO medical malpractice attorneys provide an overview of Colorado’s law on medical peer reviews and we explain why this statute is bad for patient safety. 

Why Medical Peer Review is Bad News for Patient Safety

On the surface level, physician peer reviews and hospital peer reviews may seem like a good idea. We certainly want physicians and other medical professionals to raise safety issues when they encounter them.

The system should bar dangerous doctors from practice. The problem is that the overly strict confidentiality rules make it impossible for patients to get the information that they need. The medical peer review process has turned into a process that allows hospitals and other healthcare providers to conceal bad information that they discover about doctors or nurses.

The best way to understand the adverse impact of this law is through a real-world example. As reported by Fox 31 Denver, a Colorado mother is pursuing a medical malpractice lawsuit following the death of her ten-year-old son. According to the allegations, the doctor who provided emergency medical services to this child was high on drugs.

Another doctor told her family that a number of complaints had been raised internally in the past. Yet, internal disciplinary records, ones that could have relevant information, are kept out of public view. Patients cannot access internal disciplinary information about their doctor.  

One of the most alarming aspects of the current medical peer review process is that there is no real oversight. Hospitals and other healthcare providers are largely responsible for investigating themselves. When adverse information is reported, such as when doctors negligently botch operations, their employer may simple conceal that information from the public. This is not acceptable — patients deserve transparency and we need independent investigations.

How to Check Your Doctor’s Background and Credentials

There are few things more important than choosing the right doctor. Unfortunately, Colorado’s current system is not nearly transparent enough. But, there are still steps you can take to check a doctor’s background. Specifically, four things that you can and should review are as follows:

1. Medical Education

First, you can check a physician's medical education. While this may not be especially relevant for experienced doctors, it is a good idea to make sure that a younger doctor has the appropriate training. Public information can be found regarding a doctor’s medical school and their residency.

2. State Licenses

Physicians are licensed by the state. The Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies provides a database you can use to ensure that a doctor is properly licensed and in good standing with the state. Unlicensed doctors cannot practice medicine in Colorado.

3. Board Certification

If you are dealing with a medical specialist, you may want to check out their board certification. With the requisite experience and training a doctor can be board certified as a specialist in a certain area of medicine.    

4. Disciplinary Action

Finally, you can check with the Colorado Medical Board to see if any disciplinary action has been taken against a medical professional. Through the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB), national information regarding disciplinary actions and medical malpractice claims can be obtained. As was mentioned, Colorado’s peer review law denies you, as the patient, access to full information regarding complaints about a doctor.

Get Help from Our Colorado Medical Malpractice Attorneys Today

At Denver Trial Lawyers, our Colorado medical malpractice lawyers are strong advocates for injured victims and their loved ones. We have recovered hundreds of millions in compensation for our clients. To arrange a free, fully confidential, please contact our law firm today, or call us at (303) 571-5302.

From our law office in Denver, we handle medical negligence claims throughout the region.