January 24, 2021

CBS News recently reported that “1.8 percent of doctors are responsible for more than half of all malpractice payouts. Of that small group, “Only 1 in 7 have had action taken against them by any state [medical board].””


That calculation was performed by Robert E. Oshel, Ph.D., who is described by the Patient Safety Action Network on its website as “an expert on malpractice and medical discipline issues. Prior to his retirement he was Associate Director for Research and Disputes for the National Practitioner Data Bank. By law the Data Bank receives reports of all malpractice payments and most state licensure and clinical privileges disciplinary actions. Dr. Oshel designed the Data Bank’s program for research use of reported data and also established the Data Bank’s Public Use Data File, https://www.npdb.hrsa.gov/resources/publicData.jsp. Dr. Oshel also led the Data Bank’s administrative process for adjudicating disputed reports. He currently volunteers for malpractice and medical discipline research and Data Bank issues for Public Citizen and the Consumers Union Safe Patient Project. His research has been published or cited in numerous professional journals and popular publications, including Consumer Reports.”


What Is The National Practitioner Data Bank?

“The National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) is a centralized database that is overseen by the United States Department of Health and Human Services that pools reports of medical malpractice and other aversive actions taken against health care workers. Information is submitted to NPDB by agencies such as hospitals, state licensing boards, and medical malpractice insurance companies. The records that the NPDB compile are healthcare-related criminal convictions and civil judgments (i.e., medical malpractice), final decisions rendered by licensure and certification actions, and other adjudicated actions rendered. Information contained in the database is utilized to make employment decisions, track a physician’s records as well as aid in medical privileging. The records contained in NPDB are protected and only authorized users (i.e., hospitals or state licensure board) considering a physician can obtain the record via a query.

The NPDB was created by Congress with the intent to increase patient safety, combat health care fraud, and improve medical care due to the rising amount of Medical Malpractice Litigation. Additionally, the purpose of the NPDB was imposing restrictions on medical health professionals who were deemed incompetent or had a performance that is detrimental to another community from crossing State lines. The NPDB also was an attempt to encourage professional review by peers.”


Usefulness/Accuracy Of The National Practitioner Data Bank

A research paper appearing in the DePaul Law Review stated, in part: “Hospitals appear to be less serious about reporting to the NPDB, however. One study found that more than two-thirds of the hospitals examined reported no adverse events to the NPDB over a five-year span. Another estimated that 75% of “potentially reportable actions” and 60% of “unquestionably reportable actions” went unreported. These omissions reduce the NPDB’s value. Providers’ use of the so-called corporate shield impairs the NPDB’s completeness too. The shield is employed when “the medical corporation for which the doctor works is named in the suit, and the doctor is either not originally named or is released specifically for the purpose of avoiding a report to the NPDB.”Although the extent to which this tactic reduces the number of payments that are reportable to the NPDB is not known, some authors believe that one-half of otherwise reportable adverse events are deflected by this means.”


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