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What is the National Practitioner Data Bank?

Unlike other professions, the medical profession has a nationwide database recording various misdeeds of doctors, nurses and other medical professionals. The National Practitioner Data Bank is maintained by the United States Department of Health & Human Services. Basically, licensing boards, health insurance plans and malpractice carriers, as well as hospitals, can submit reports on doctors and other professionals.

Common examples of what sorts of events get reported would include when a hospital must suspend a doctor's privileges to practice in the hospital or when a medical malpractice insurance company must pay a claim. Licensing boards also may report when they are in the process of disciplining a doctor or have imposed a sanction.

The idea behind the Data Bank was to prevent doctors from moving from place to place to duck disciplinary authorities and others after they demonstrated incompetence or bad judgment. However, it seems that at least some doctors, including one surgeon in the Kansas City area, have been able to continue to move around in order to keep practicing. Many licensing boards do not even check the Data Bank when a doctor moves into their jurisdiction. In the case of this surgeon, he moved to Kansas after the Missouri authorities began to question his competence. Private citizens have also accused this same surgeon of malpractice.

The Data Bank is not available to the general public, but it still is a treasure trove of information about the prior conduct of medical professionals. Hopefully, those in authority will realize that this information could be valuable if disseminated to those who rely on doctors for their care.

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