Doctors' groups block patient access to data on physician errors
A Tulsa daily newpaper reported today on its efforts to examine why a federal data base on physician errors is not available to patients. The reporter, Gavin Off, noted that most State Medical Boards, like Oklahoma's, use the data base before granting physicians' licenses to practice, but the system continues to succumb to physician pressure to hide the doctors' identities from the public. The data has been gathered on doctors' errors since 1989 and includes information on 23,768 preventable patient deaths, 8100 major permanent injuries and 3896 cases that resulted in quadriplegia, brain damage or lifelong care. It includes, for example, in Oklahoma alone, nine cases of sexual misconduct and 28 lawsuits over procedures conducted on a mistaken body part (with $2.9 million dollars in settlements).
The reporter spoke with one authority who pointed out that if the information was reliable enough to use in making licensing decisions, it was reasonable to provide it to patients. As with credit files, doctors could be free to supplement the data, if they believed there was an error. Nonetheless, the experts report that the data will remain unavailable to patients and consumers, even though it is available to hospitals granting staffing privileges, because the AMA has a lock on politicians who would have to vote to make it available to the public.