Today’s Wall Street Journal has a fascinating article about a California program that helps determine if physicians who have been disciplined can start practicing again. The goal of PACE (Physician Assessment and Clinical Education Program) is "
to evaluate the competence of troubled doctors whose infractions range from serious medical error and negligence to sloppy record keeping and anger management. Using a mix of computer-based simulations, multiple-choice exams, cognitive-function screenings and hands-on observation, PACE faculty and staff tests doctors’ knowledge, skills and judgment, providing remedial courses and a weeklong mini-residency supervised by UCSD medical faculty.
The article also states that
Harvard University patient-safety expert Lucian Leape estimates that as many as 10% of the nation’s 750,000 physicians will demonstrate "significant deficiencies in knowledge or skills" at some point in their career. Combine that with other problems, including abusive behavior toward colleagues and patients, drug and alcohol dependency, stress-related mental-health issues and age-related cognitive decline, and at least a third of physicians will have a problem that poses a threat to safe patient care at one time or another, Dr. Leape says.
This sounds like an excellent program – one that is in the best interest of physicians and patients.