The National Practitioner Data Bank collects negative information on health care practitioners, which may include malpractice awards or loss of license. Compiling this data into reports available only the authorized users, this database was created by Congress with the goal of improving health care nationwide through accountability. While those in the health field are granted access to the Data Bank, under certain conditions, so are plaintiffs’ attorneys and pro se plaintiffs in medical malpractice suits.
The reports available on the Data Bank include an array of information that can provide information relevant to a malpractice case, such as medical malpractice payments, any negative licensure actions, any negative action by clinics or professional societies, and any adverse accreditation findings. This information is available not only about individual practitioners but for medical facilities and other medical organizations.
While this information is not available to perusal by the public at large, the results of a query can prove vital to a malpractice case against a hospital or other medical facility. For example, in a malpractice case against a hospital for the actions of one of its surgeons, a plaintiff’s attorney may request the information to demonstrate that the surgeon has a pattern of malpractice claims and suspended licenses, and the hospital, as her employer, should have been aware of and taken appropriate action for these infractions. Similarly, the Data Bank report may reveal the hospital, itself, has an above-average rate of malpractice claims because of negligent hiring and employment practices.
Though the report may not be used against the individual practitioner according to Data Bank policies, it may prove useful in claims against organizations such as hospitals and medical centers. Presenting a judge or jury with a long history of negligence and wanton disregard for patients’ health makes it easy to conclude that the pattern of behavior has continued into the current case. Conclusions such as those can mean decisions and awards in favor of plaintiffs.
The Data Bank is not only a tool for malpractice plaintiffs, as medical professionals and organizations may conduct a self-query through the databank to uncover any negative reports. Should a doctor find that he has a negative report, he is given the opportunity to include an explanation for the adverse result or to dispute it if he believes the report is in error. The doctor’s statement is reviewed by the Data Bank, and once cleared of identifying patient information, becomes incorporated into the report. A successful dispute, however, may clear the report entirely, preventing its use in any future malpractice claims against the practitioner’s employer.
For more information on the National Practitioner Data Bank and its policies, see http://www.npdb-hipdb.hrsa.gov/
Maryland Medical Malpractice
In Maryland, since 1990, as of August 2013, there have been 6,897 adverse actions according to the official statistical information provided by the Databank. This includes actions by or against State Licensure, Clinical Privileges/Panel Memberships, Professional Society Memberships, the Drug Enforcement Administration, or Health and Human Services OIG Exclusions. It includes not just physicians, but nurses, pharmacists, optometrists, podiatrists, and more.
This is not to be confused with Maryland medical malpractice lawsuits. There is a correlation between the two, but they do not mean the same thing. For instance, a physician may be caught using drugs on the job and have an adverse action against their license, but may not have yet hurt a patient. Therefore, there would not be an action for malpractice. Likewise, in the reverse, a doctor may violate the standard of care (and subsequently incur a medical malpractice action, but not have an adverse action taken.