In Washington DC, the city council passed a bill that will require medical personnel to report "adverse medical events" to a central database that one day will be made available over the Web, The Washington Post reports.
The requirements are among the most substantive revisions in more than 20 years to the law governing health occupations. The changes, which were not supported by the District's medical and hospital associations, seek to rectify long-standing criticisms about the board's lack of action against troubled physicians.
"It will take [the law] a light year ahead of where we were," said Health Department administrator Feseha Woldu, who supervises the licensing of health care professionals.
Neighboring Maryland and Virginia have had reporting requirements for years but in DC, it's still a controversial move. Doctors are concerned that the definition of adverse event is too vague.
"It's absolutely meaningless . . . so poorly defined," said K. Edward Shanbacker, executive vice president of the Medical Society of the District of Columbia, which opposed the final bill. "Physicians are going to have no idea what to report."
In 2005, the Post reported that the DC medical board rarely disciplined doctors and didn't publicize what actions it did take.
"The speed of enforcement has increased and, I believe, the number of enforcements," said Frederick Finelli, a surgeon at Washington Hospital Center and chairman of the medical board.
Despite the medical establishment's opposition, public advocacy groups say much more should eb done.
"D.C. is still ranked way toward the bottom," said physician Sidney Wolfe, who directs Public Citizen's Health Research Group. From 2003 to 2005 the District took "serious actions" against the equivalent of 2.58 per 1,000 licensed doctors. "There is no reason why D.C. shouldn't start disciplining more doctors," Wolfe said.