Lisa Zenzen Baker, 1961-2003


Friday, November 11, 2005

Doctors' records go online

The following has just been reported by Business Wire:

HealthGrades launches first physician
malpractice database for the public

Records include data from 15 States, including New York

But 35 states and the federal government (and some newspapers) choose not to report malpractice data

HealthGrades, the nation’s leading independent health care ratings company, has compiled the first national database of physician malpractice records available to the public. Detailed information on medical malpractice judgments, settlements and arbitration awards against physicians in 15 states - including New York - is now available on-line, at, as part of HealthGrades’ physician quality reports for consumers.

The database combines, for the first time, all available public malpractice records. It also includes the amount or range of payment and whether the resolution was a judgment, settlement, or the result of arbitration. In HealthGrades’ data set, approximately three percent of physicians have a malpractice settlement or judgment on their record over the years 2001-2005. That number is likely higher as HealthGrades data is based on state records, some of which contain thresholds for reporting claims.

Most physicians who have experienced a malpractice judgment or settlement are still practicing without disciplinary action by a state medical board, a set of information already available in HealthGrades’ physician reports. Of the 35,000 doctors who have had two or more malpractice payouts since 1990, only 7.6 percent of them have been disciplined, and only 13 percent of doctors with five medical malpractice payouts have been disciplined, according to data from the National Practitioner Data Bank, a government malpractice database not available to the general public.

Yet, until now, the public has had only limited access to physician malpractice judgment and settlement data, primarily through the individual state agencies that report the information.

"Now consumers have access to all available physician malpractice information in one place, helping them identify doctors who may have trouble spots in their past -- even if the physician currently practices in a state where malpractice information is not publicly reported," said Sarah Loughran, HealthGrades executive vice president.

But challenges remain in increasing consumers’ access to physician malpractice records. For example, among the states that do report physician malpractice data, there is wide variation in how much information is provided, and how long it stays on a physician’s record.

"We commend the states that report this important information and we are pleased to provide this to the consumers searching for doctors using HealthGrades. But huge gaps in our knowledge of malpractice activity remain," Loughran said. "We encourage the 35 states that do not report malpractice data and the federal government to consider making this valuable information available to consumers."

HealthGrades has added malpractice data for physicians in the following states: California, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, North Dakota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Tennessee, Virginia, Vermont and West Virginia.

In HealthGrades’ data set, the five medical specialties with the highest percentage of malpractice incidents are, in rank order: bariatric surgery, maternal fetal medicine, neurosurgery, obstetrics and gynecology, and cardiothoracic surgery.

The malpractice information is being added to what is already the most robust online resource for consumers researching physicians. The physician-quality reports that HealthGrades offers to consumers on nearly every practicing physician in the country – about 700,000 – contain data on their medical training, board certification, sanctions by medical boards in any of the 50 states, quality ratings of nearby hospitals, patient-satisfaction ratings and more.