Protect Patients by Disclosing Medical Malpractice and Physician Discipline Records

Target: The Health Resources and Services Administration of the Department of Health and Human Services

Goal: Restore public access to the National Practitioner Data Bank.

A recent report by the consumer advocacy group, Public Citizen, has recently uncovered a troubling patient safety issue.  The National Practitioner Data Bank, the only comprehensive source for information regarding medical malpractice, clinical errors, and physician discipline, was removed after 15 years of public use.  Researchers, healthcare consumer advocates, and policymakers alike, utilized the data bank to retrieve anonymized data, which provided fundamental information in understanding the trends and potential issues with healthcare delivery.  For those people who work tirelessly to ensure that patients are safe, and that doctors and healthcare establishments are held accountable, the loss of the National Practitioner Data Bank as a resource has been devastating.  To ensure the highest level of patient safety as possible, and guarantee that public policy decisions surrounding healthcare provision are well-informed, access to this information is fundamental.

In accordance with the Health Care Quality Improvement Act of 1986, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) of the Department of Human Resources had made the National Practitioner Data Bank available to the public.  The act, in part, explains that information which does not explicitly identify particular physicians, healthcare practitioners, or healthcare entities is not considered confidential, and therefore, should be disclosed by the HRSA upon the request of any person.  For the last 15 years, the HRSA has been compliant with the act as it never contained identifying, personal information, nor did it restrict access.

Not only is the revocation of public access to the National Practitioner Data Bank harmful to the progress of research and informed policymaking, but as Public Citizen Deputy Director Dr. Michael Carome explains, it also is in contradistinction to the goals of the National Quality Strategy.  As an initiative by the Department of Health and Human Services, the goal of National Quality Strategy is to “reduce harm caused in the delivery of care”.  Removing the National Practitioner Data Bank, and all records of medical error, malpractice, compliance, and disciplinary action within it, is in opposition to the goals of the National Quality Strategy initiative.

Within the United States each year, upwards of 200,000 preventable deaths and close to 1 million excessive undue injuries occur due to medical errors.  It is essential for the creation of informed and well-directed healthcare policy, as well as the safety and health of patients, to have public access to the National Practitioner Data Bank restored.

PETITION LETTER:

The recent restriction of access to the once-public National Practitioner Data Bank is distressing as it has become a valuable resource to researchers in informing healthcare policy decisions, as well as a tool for healthcare advocates to help ensure patient safety, over the last 15 years.  As the sole, comprehensive source of information regarding medical malpractice and errors, physician discipline, and compliance issues in reporting such information to the Health Resources and Services Administration, the National Practitioner Data Bank must be restored to public view.

The health and safety of our nation’s pregnant women, sick children, frail elderly, and those otherwise vulnerable, are reliant upon informed advocacy and policy. We stand with Dr. Carome, Public Citizen, and other consumer advocacy and patient safety groups, in urging the restoration of the Public Use Data File of the National Practitioner Data Bank.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Will Go Here]

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41 Signatures

  • Nikki Owen
  • Ana Maria Mainhardt Carpes
  • Doris Telles
  • Darlene Roepke
  • Eveline Mutsaerts
  • Lynn Juozilaitis
  • Ann Blank
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