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Public access to data base would help reduce medical malpractice

The National Practitioner Data Base (NPDB) is essentially a list of doctors and medical providers who have negative records regarding malpractice claims made against them. The record would show the history of the doctor or hospital with respect to medical malpractice claims and outcomes. The data base is maintained in all states, including in Louisiana.

There are loopholes that are used, however, to escape reporting a medical provider's name and information in the NPDB. When it first started over 15 years ago, the data base was created for the medical profession to supposedly police its own members. It has since then moved to also being used to some extent by the public to check out doctors that they may be using for treatment or care.

The public interest group Public Citizen is working on solutions to making the data base more universal and more accessible to the public. The group has petitioned the government to cut out current data base loopholes and to make reporting universal whenever a doctor is involved in a malpractice claim. The agency asserts that doctors will be better able to monitor and uplift the quality of services by eliminating loopholes.

The main loophole allows for no reporting of doctors who are released early from malpractice litigation. If a hospital remains in the case, the doctor does not have to be listed in the data base. According to Public Citizen, this lessens the ability of the profession to improve the quality of services.

The public would be served by universal reporting of medical professionals who have been disciplined or been the subject of medical malpractice allegations. Patterns of repetitive complaints are likely to identify problem practitioners and institutions. Theoretically, patients in Louisiana and other states may also use the NPDB to see whether a provider has a pattern of charges when they need to make a decision about whether to use that provider, and also when they need to decide whether to get another opinion.                                   

Source:, "Advocacy group aims to close malpractice loophole in NPDB", Keith Loria, Sept. 7, 2016

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