Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Restricting negative data concerning doctors

We've written previously about doctor history data that has now become available to patients in Pennsylvania concerning disciplinary actions and medical malpractice claims brought against specific doctors. These data banks have become available in part because of the Heath Care Quality Improvement Act of 1986.

With the dramatic rise in medical malpractice claims, a National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) has been created to address concerns about doctors moving to different states and then covering up any negative history particular doctors may have. Despite such legislation, the American Medical Association (AMA) has lobbied for limited access to such data, so now such information is confined to full reports to licensing boards, law enforcement and a certain number of health care organizations.

Though the data has now removed a number of personal indicators, journalists and other advocates for public disclosure have often been able to piece information together so that the names of certain doctors that have committed acts of medical malpractice are still known. But because journalists were at one time able to piece together such information attempts have been made to shut the database down.

Increasing demand for public transparency has prevented this from occurring. Still, restrictions have now been placed on the database that requires journalists to agree to discontinue combining such information that would allow the public to discover the identity of a doctor.

The rise in medical malpractice claims is not due to an increase in medical malpractice or that medical malpractice was non-existent in the past. Nor has there been an increase in frivolous claims. Medical malpractice is a life altering event that remains calamitous for its victims. Medical malpractice simply remained unreported during past years and injured victims remained uncompensated.

Source: U.S. Politics Today, "Knowledge is Power, Especially When Choosing a Doctor," Feb. 21, 2012

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