NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

GAO Warns That Government Data On Dangerous Doctors Is Flawed

December 1, 2000

The federal government's database on doctors who have been disciplined contains records that are inaccurate, incomplete or inappropriate, according to a review by the General Accounting Office.

That finding may well dampen demands to open up the database to the general public.

  • The National Practitioner Data Bank, created in 1986, helps health officials spot doctors who move around the country to hide a past of malpractice, as well as those who have lost hospital privileges or had their licenses revoked.
  • The GAO said some data "could confuse or mislead" and "may not be as accurate, complete or timely as it should be."
  • Nearly 80 percent of the information in the data base is about malpractice cases -- which experts say can be poor indicators of a doctor's abilities because malpractice cases are often settled for financial reasons rather than for admission of a mistake.
  • The GAO charged that more than one-third of reports concerning doctors' loss of privileges to work at a hospital had inaccurate data.

The report is maintained by an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services. In some states, doctors say, patients can find more accurate information on the Internet.

Source: Robert Davis, "Data on Disciplined Docs Flawed," USA Today, December 1, 2000.

For GAO report:


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