Patients have a wide range of choices in healthcare today making it more important than ever to be well informed when it comes to choosing the right physician. Selecting a healthcare provider can be one of the most important decisions you will ever have to make. It is important to do some research about your potential physician including professional qualifications, experience, criminal convictions, disciplinary actions, and medical malpractice judgments. The more information a patient has about a healthcare professional, the better decisions they can make regarding their medical care.
In 1996, the state medical board in Massachusetts became the first in the country to make physician profiles available to the public in the form a “Physician Profile Database”. With one of the largest doctor groups, they helped write the legislation, and their database became a role model for other states. Patient care and patient safety has been the driving force behind the push for healthcare and physician profile transparency. Making doctor’s profiles available to the public was initiated because it was thought that the informed patient who was given choices about their physician had the best chance of receiving quality care. Now, each state’s medical board maintains a database with information about its physicians.
There are variations in what information is provided on each individual state’s physician database. For example, Pennsylvania’s medical board maintains a smaller database providing only a doctor’s licensing credentials and any history of disciplinary actions. Other states give more details including education, training, and specialty areas.
The state of Massachusetts’ medical board, which is one of the top leaders in medicine in the United States, is under scrutiny for omitting and removing specific data from their online public physician database. A recent investigation by the Northeastern University Initiative for Investigative Reporting revealed that thousands of incriminating records including criminal convictions were removed or omitted from the online physician profiles.
For example, the investigation found that after 10 years records for medical malpractice payouts and disciplinary actions against a physician are removed from the database. The Massachusetts Board also completely removes physician profiles when physicians either lose their licenses or let them expire, instead of leaving the profiles online and noting unfavorable statuses. In addition, clinical privilege penalties are recorded in the database if they are imposed by a hospital, but not included in the database if those penalties are imposed by clinics, surgical centers, nursing homes, managed care facilities, and other non-hospital settings where 80 percent of medical care takes place. Finally, visually impaired consumers are at a disadvantage in Massachusetts because a “text to speech” format is not available to them although an online accessibility law requires it.
If the Massachusetts medical board, the “role model” for physician databases, has failed so miserably in providing transparency, there is little confidence that other states have done much better. Having a database that lacks transparency raises concern for patient safety. A patient can be left with the false impression that their doctor or potential doctor has a clean record. Furthermore, if patients are not aware of a doctor’s disciplinary actions or medical malpractice judgments because they were removed or not posted to the database, the health of consumers is at risk. These doctors may continue to practice unsafe and irresponsible medicine endangering the lives of those who trust them to provide quality care.
The Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers at Messa & Associates have decades of experience litigating complex lawsuits involving medical malpractice or medical negligence. We are a team of extremely skilled medical malpractice lawyers who are dedicated to protecting your rights, and helping you receive the proper compensation for your injuries. If you believe you or a loved one has been injured as a result of medical malpractice or negligence, it is vital to speak with an experienced medical malpractice attorney such as those at Messa & Associates. We can examine the details of your case, investigate the healthcare providers in question, and determine whether or not your medical providers should be held accountable for your injuries. Call toll free at 1-877-637-7252 for a free consultation at our Philadelphia or New Jersey office or submit a free online inquiry.
Joseph L. Messa, Jr. is the founding partner of Messa & Associates, P.C. He is an AV-rated attorney (highest rating available), listed in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers. Read More