Your Doctor's Past Records Tough to Find: Report
Consumer Reports survey shows patients think they should be told, but the information just isn't really public
By Robert Preidt
TUESDAY, March 29, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Most Americans would want to know if their doctor has a troubled past, but getting that information is difficult, a new report finds.
Thousands of practicing doctors in the United States are on probation for offenses such as sexual misconduct, drug addiction or unprofessional treatment of patients, according to Consumer Reports.
A survey by the nonprofit group found that 82 percent of respondents said doctors should have to tell patients if they're on probation and why, and two-thirds support banning doctors from practicing medicine until their probation ends.
However, Consumer Reports says that the American Medical Association and state medical boards have thwarted attempts to make it easier for patients to learn about doctors' transgressions.
"The onus shouldn't be on patients to investigate their physicians," Lisa McGiffert, director of the group's Safe Patient Project, said in a news release from the group. "Doctors on probation should be required to tell their patients about their status, and explain the reasons behind it."
The report authors analyzed data from the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), which collects details about doctors' malpractice payouts and disciplinary records.
The data bank is not open to the public. Access is restricted to hospitals, doctors, insurance companies, law enforcement, and a few other select groups.
"You can find out more about the safety record of your toaster and whether or not it's going to catch on fire than you can find about your physicians," patient-safety advocate Robert Oshel, the former associate director for research and disputes at the NPDB, said in the news release.
His analysis of NPDB data revealed that fewer than 2 percent of doctors nationwide were responsible for half of the $85 billion in malpractice payouts made since the federal government began gathering malpractice data.
Multiple, large malpractice settlements against a doctor "can be a warning sign ... suggesting that if licensing boards and hospital peer reviewers were willing to either get these doctors to stop practicing or get retraining, we'd all be better off," Oshel said.