The government helps hide malpractice?

Journalism groups cry out against government shutdown of public database crucial to malpractice oversight.
Written by Denise Amrich, Contributor

It seems ironic that, at a time when there's so much in the news about tremendous amounts of patient data being leaked (data that's actually supposed to be private), data about physician malpractice that should be public is being removed from the Internet by the government.

The nastygram threatening fines and lawsuits from the Health Resources and Services Administration (which is an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services).

The National Practitioner Data Bank has since been yanked by the government agency, even though the reporter had only accessed and used information freely available in the public section of the database. From this information, he was apparently able to sleuth out who some of the unnamed parties were, and deduce that they hadn't received any kind of disciplinary action. His whistle-blowing story was subsequently published.

According to the New York Times article on the debacle the data will probably be coming back online at some point in the next half a year or so, but my guess is it'll be seriously nerfed.

The question is, where's the patient advocacy in all of this? We need physicians to keep an eye on us, but part of our ability to trust them to do that comes from our ability to keep an eye on them. The Internet has helped us to do this. Individual physicians absolutely have the right to protected private lives. But we have the right to know something about who we are being treated by, and something about what their records look like.

A number of journalism organizations have publicly protested this mess. You can read about their position and letter here.

What do you think about this battle of rights? Tell us in the TalkBacks below.

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