Medical Board Databank Available Online
In response to a "growing demand," the Federation of State Medical Boards since January has been allowing public access to its records of disciplinary actions taken against physicians, the San Diego Union-Tribune reports. The not-for-profit organization, which consists of 69 state and territorial medical licensing authorities, serves as a "central repository" for information about doctors, but does not provide information on malpractice lawsuits. According to Dr. James Winn, the federation's executive vice president, the decision to make the information public is a "significant" policy change for the federation. Previously, only hospitals, government agencies, insurance companies and medical licensing boards had access to the records. The information is available online at www.docinfo.org for a $9.95 fee. Because the database does not include information on malpractice lawsuits, Dr. Sidney Wolfe of the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen said he is "skeptic[al]" of the databank's value, adding, "There are already existing commercial Web sites that provide the same kind of information. There is nothing unique about (the federation) that I'm aware of." Information on doctors is currently available online from the American Medical Association and other Web sites such as SearchPointe.com and HealthGrades.com. There has "been talk" about making the National Practitioner Data Bank, a federal repository that includes malpractice information, available to the public (Fong, San Diego Union-Tribune, 3/1). Former GOP Rep. Thomas Bliley (Va.) argued last year that the federal databank should be opened, but a General Accounting Office report in December found that the databank is "inaccurate, incomplete or inappropriate" and "could confuse or mislead" patients (California Healthline, 12/1/00).