Two-Thirds of State Medical Boards see Increase in COVID-19 Disinformation Complaints
WASHINGTON, D.C. (December 9, 2021) - The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) has released findings from its 2021 annual survey of its member state medical boards. A prominent focus of this year’s survey was to identify how medical boards are being impacted by, and addressing, physicians and other health care professionals who spread false or misleading information about COVID-19.
When asked about complaints and disciplinary actions related to COVID-19, the survey found:
- 67% have experienced an increase in complaints related to licensee dissemination of false or misleading information
- 26% have made or published statements about the dissemination of false or misleading information
- 21% have taken a disciplinary action against a licensee disseminating false or misleading information
“The staggering number of state medical boards that have seen an increase in COVID-19 disinformation complaints is a sign of how widespread the issue has become,” said Humayun J. Chaudhry, DO, MACP, President and CEO of the FSMB. “We are encouraged by the number of boards that have already taken action to combat COVID-19 disinformation by disciplining physicians who engage in that behavior and by reminding all physicians that their words and actions matter, and they should think twice before spreading disinformation that may harm patients.”
In July, the FSMB Board of Directors released a statement reminding physicians that if they spread COVID-19 vaccine misinformation or disinformation, they are risking disciplinary action by their state medical board. Since then, at least 15 boards have published statements about licensees spreading false or misleading information and at least 12 boards have taken disciplinary action against a licensee for spreading false or misleading information. Disciplinary actions will continue as more investigations are completed.
The FSMB’s Ethics and Professionalism Committee is in the process of drafting a policy document that will include guidelines and recommendations for state medical boards to help address the spread of disinformation. Once drafted, the policy document will be circulated for comment and voted on for adoption by the FSMB’s House of Delegates in April 2022.
The FSMB is closely monitoring troubling legislation that has been introduced in a number of states aimed at limiting state medical boards’ authority to act in the furtherance of public health and patient safety. If enacted, a number of bills would make it more difficult for licensing boards to discipline a licensee for spreading disinformation. The FSMB strongly opposes any effort to restrict a board’s authority to evaluate the standard of care and assess risk for patient harm.
About the Federation of State Medical Boards
The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) is a national non-profit organization representing all medical boards within the United States and its territories that license and discipline allopathic and osteopathic physicians and, in some jurisdictions, other health care professionals. The FSMB serves as the voice for state medical boards, supporting them through education, assessment, research and advocacy while providing services and initiatives that promote patient safety, quality health care and regulatory best practices. To learn more about FSMB, visit www.fsmb.org and follow FSMB on Twitter (@theFSMB).