Our Chicago medical malpractice lawyers have consistently reported on the new bill signed into law by Governor Pat Quinn that requires a public information database on doctor histories to be put back online. The database was available for a short time several years ago, however, it was removed at the urging of medical lobby insiders when the Illinois medical malpractice caps were ruled unconstitutional by the state’s Supreme Court. The new law will once again open the database to consumers about their doctor’s education, expertise, and medical malpractice track record.
Unfortunately, the importance of sharing open and honest information with medical patients is not a shared value throughout the country. Late last week Health Data Management reported on a move by the Department of Health and Human Services-Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to remove the National Practitioner’s Database. The information source had been available to the public providing information on malpractice events, license disciplinary actions, and peer review data.
It is unclear exactly what spurred the sudden halt to the availability of this data. However, the problem likely stems from disagreements about journalists use of certain facets of the database for purposes of concern to the agency. Initially HRSA explained that the site would be down for at least six months. However, that original estimate is now being questioned. Instead, those involved now say that they are making certain changes to ensure confidentiality and hope to have it all back up as soon as possible.
The Consumer’s Union sent a letter to HRSA explained their concerns about the database’s take-down. The group is one of the nation’s strongest advocates for information to be made available to average consumers to use when making their decisions-regarding anything from retail products or healthcare. The group explained how the database had been used by a wide variety of sources for the past fifteen years to provide the public with information about medical malpractice, disciplinary actions, and peer reviews. They reminded the agency that the information needs to be made available by law.
It was explained how the database removal also runs counter to the current administration’s spirit which sought to “establish a system of transparency, public participation, and collaboration.” It is a step in the wrong direction when consumers have less information than before or are required to jump through more hoops to get the necessary information. The database represents the only comprehensive resource available nationwide about physician oversight. As such it is an incredibly valuable tool that should be returned online immediately.
Accountability, openness, honesty, and fairness should honored principles in all professions-including healthcare. Our Illinois medical malpractice attorneys at Levin & Perconti believe that there is nothing to fear from providing patients with accurate information that could help them make informed healthcare choices. The fears surrounding honesty about this information is indicative of the unnecessary secrecy which still reigns among some in this field. All patient rights advocates should step up to ensure that this information is made available for all to see.
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