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National Medical Malpractice Database No Longer Public

Posted on September 27, 2011

Most states have a database that allows the public and reporters to check on the number of medical malpractice claims of a physician and to see how often, if at all, they have been disciplined. Now one of the services has been blocked and consumers and three journalism groups are protesting.

The National Practitioner Data Bank was a reliable national source on medical malpractice and is largely used by reporters and consumers, but the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) blocked access, reports Consumer Affairs.

The Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) group is protesting and so is Public Citizen. In a letter to HHS, Public Citizen said taking down the information, which has been publicly available for 15 years, “eliminates an important tool used by health care researchers, patient safety experts, and policy analysts to identify important trends and systematic problems involving the delivery of health care by physicians.”

Public Citizen says that doctor’s names are not even used or exact malpractice amounts. The group uses the information to analyze trends in malpractice and to follow the discipline of doctors who harm patients. Public Citizen has reported the same 5% of doctors are committing the bulk of medical malpractice, so it is important to determine how these doctors are treated by other medical professionals to ensure public safety.

There has been no explanation of why the site was taken down or when it will return. The Obama administration which has promised transparency has made patients less safe by withholding information with no explanation.

The group, Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) has made the information available on its website from an August 2011 download which is available here.

Sources: http://www.consumeraffairs.com/news04/2011/09/journalism-groups-make-malpractice-database-public.html;http://www.citizen.org/letter-regarding-npdb-public-use-file-availability-091311; http://www.ire.org/NPDB/