Hospitals Fail To Report Doctors
Various news outlets covered the findings of a Washington health watchdog organization that showed hospitals are not reporting problems with doctors to a national medical discipline database. The Public Citizen's Health Research Group found that many hospitals didn't report to the database that is used by hospitals and other medical providers to check a doctor's background.
The Detroit Free Press reported that "nationwide, nearly half of all hospitals did not report actions against doctors to the National Practitioner Data Bank between 1990, when the database began, through December 2007."
"Federal law requires hospitals to report physicians who have had their admitting privileges revoked or restricted for more than 30 days. Public Citizen charged that hospitals use loopholes in the law, avoiding filing requirements by putting doctors on leave, or disciplining them for fewer than 30 days," according to the Detroit Free Press. "In all, U.S. hospitals filed 11,221 reports to the data bank in its first 17 years, an average of 650 reports a year, significantly less than the 10,000 a year expected by industry leaders and 5,000 a year the government estimated before beginning the system."
The data bank is run by the Health Resources and Services Administration. Public Citizen sent a letter and recommendations on the issue Thursday to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, including financial penalties to hospitals and trying to tie a "hospital's Medicare reimbursement to its participation in the data bank." The national data bank is closed to the public and, the Detroit Free Press notes, "there currently is no way for consumers to find out which hospitals report medical competency or conduct issues to the bank" (Anstett, 5/28).
San Jose Mercury News reported that such reporting failures make it easier for substandard "physicians to relocate to another institution or state where their track records are not known." It also noted that, "When a hospital files with the national databank, it also must file a report with the state medical board. Medical boards often use such reports to decide whether to take action involving a doctor's license." The study also "urges federal officials to take steps to ensure that hospitals are doing effective peer reviews and reporting their actions so that substandard physicians are not slipping through the cracks" (Kleffman, 5/28).
ABC News also reported on the findings examining the cultural tendency in hospitals not to report fellow doctors. It also noted that the American Hospital Association said that "the report does not paint a full picture" (Stark and Hallihan, 5/27)This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.