The Chicago Tribune reported last night on a troubling new development in Illinois that will keep patients from accessing important information about their doctor. This development is another step backward in open, honest medical care-it is another blow to all those interested in patient safety.
For two years, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation maintained online profiles of all doctors in the state. The profiles contained detailed information about the healthcare providers’ career to help patients when they were making choices about who to seek for care. The information also listed crime convictions, hospital firings, and medical malpractice payments that affected each doctor as part of the open information provided to patients. These profiles were very popular in the state, receiving over 130,000 clicks per week. Clearly Illinois consumers were finding the information extremely valuable.
However, as of this week, Illinois patients no longer have access to the profiles.
The open information was a casualty of legislative maneuvering in Springfield, where state legislators had initially passed the bill which required the profiles be made available. The Illinois State Medical Society is the lobbying organization for Illinois doctors, and the group has pushed to ensure that the profile stay locked up and hidden from Illinois patients.
A bill has been introduced which will return the profiles, but it is unclear if the General Assembly will take action on the legislation. Considering the political influence exerted by the Illinois State Medical Society, legislation which seeks openness for patients is often difficult to turn into law.
As of now, the information that patients can access on their doctors is limited. Even blatant doctor misconduct cannot be found on these doctors’ public profiles. For example, the Chicago-area surgeon Nercy Jafari was found guilty of sexually abusing a patient in his care. For the last two years, if a potential patient of Dr. Jafari had checked at the online registry they would have learned that information. But now the doctor’s conviction is kept hidden.
Todd Smith, president of the Illinois Trial Lawyers Association confessed, “That anyone would want to keep that information from the citizens of Illinois is appalling to me. Patients deserve to know whether their doctor poses any dangers to them.”
All medical patients deserve truth and honesty in the care they receive. That begins by allowing medical care consumers the option of knowing basic information about the physician that they are entrusting with their life. That is why our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys at Levin & Perconti support all measure that help patients make more fully informed medical decisions. The costs of medical errors are simply too high. Patients deserve to know if their doctor has a history of these mistakes or misjudgments.