State Medical Board Web Site Lacks Information on Malpractice Verdicts
An online public database administered by the Medical Board of California often lacks information about malpractice verdicts and arbitration awards against doctors, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. In a review of 66 "widely reported" verdicts and arbitration awards against doctors in the past three years, the Chronicle found that 33% of the cases "were missing" from the database. In addition, the agency does not include malpractice settlements, misdemeanor criminal convictions or complaints against doctors in the database. According to patient advocacy groups, the database omits "so much data" that thousands of patients "can't find out about doctors with spotty records." State law only requires the Medical Board to report "final judgements -- not verdicts or settlements." California Medical Association spokesperson Peter Warren said that the group "believes that settlements should remain confidential." He added, "Settlements are an economic judgment. They are not the basis for evaluating the competence of physicians."
State law also requires court clerks to notify the medical board within 10 days about judgments or settlements that exceed $30,000. Insurers "are supposed to notify" the agency, but "there is no penalty for failing to do so." The Chronicle reports that in some cases, the Medical Board "did not know" about court decisions, "partly because court clerks and insurers neglected to tell the agency." As a result, the medical board "can't be sure how many ... are missing," which can "make it difficult" for the agency to "identify bad doctors and take action before patients are harmed." The medical board also said that the state must update its "antiquated" computer system before the agency can provide "more detailed disciplinary information" online. The medical board plans to review its policy on nondisclosure of medical malpractice settlements at a hearing in Sacramento on Jan. 23 (Wallack, San Francisco Chronicle, 1/6).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.