Should the National Practitioner Data Bank Be Reformed?

Patient Sleeping in BedI recently came across an interesting post on that discussed reforming the National Practitioner Data Bank (and state licensure boards) to acknowledge physicians who make an error, disclose it, apologize and offer compensation. Because of the growing disclosure movement, the organization would like to see that physicians who disclose errors be treated differently from 1) physicians who do not disclose errors/apologize and 2) from physicians who act recklessly.

The original intent of the National Practitioner Data Bank was to be able to track, on a national level, across state lines, physicians who had disciplinary action taken against them. But, many feel that the reports, as they currently are, do not give a complete picture. Many, many errors are simple, honest mistakes made by good physicians who are upfront and honest about them and that result in settlements. Generally speaking, we like the idea that these physicians would be distinguished from the much smaller group of physicians who make egregious or reckless errors and/or try to cover them up. But, we say this with some uneasiness because there is still a culture of silence in many, many institutions and physicians may not be supported in their disclosure of errors, and may even be advised against it.

If you agree that physicians who disclose, apologize and settle/offer compensation should be recognized for their efforts, how should the National Practitioner Data Bank distinguish them? The article falls short of posing any suggestions, but instead, is more focused on simply getting the discussion started. How would you like to see this done?

It should be noted, that currently, the National Practitioner Data Bank does allow physicians to provide a “4,000 character statement” to provide his or her side of the story along with their report. We here at encourage all of our clients to do a self-query to know what is in their National Practitioner Data Bank report, and to learn if there are any errors that they may need to correct before shopping for their medical malpractice insurance, and/or seeking new employment.

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