The National Practitioner Data Bank was established by federal law to aid the states in sharing information and preventing “problem physicians” from migrating from state to state in order to stay in practice. The Data Bank reports such problems as state license revocations, sexual misconduct, suspension of clinical privileges, and felony convictions. There is even some information in the Data Bank concerning civil medical malpractice actions.
State licensing boards are required by federal law to report to the Data Bank any actions which revoke, suspend, or restrict a physician’s license, if the action is related to the doctor’s professional conduct or competence. In addition, medical professional societies are required to report and professional review actions affecting a physician’s membership.
Illinois regulators could be using this information to weed out problem doctors and keep the patients of Illinois safe. But the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation does not, as a regular practice, view the information on the Data Bank concerning physicians licensed in Illinois. Likewise, hospitals and managed care organizations are required to report disciplinary actions affecting a doctor’s clinical privileges for more than 30 days. And all insurance carriers – including both companies offering malpractice coverage and self-insured medical providers – are required to report to the Data Bank any medical malpractice settlements or adjudications.
All this information is available to Illinois regulators – but remains unused.
In fact, although the names and identifying information are not available to the public (names are available to regulators), a public query of the Data Bank shows well over 200 Illinois-licensed doctors who have had clinical privileges revoked or restricted – all without any action by the IDFPR. Some of these doctors were deemed an immediate threat to patient health and safety when their privileges were revoked.
The IDFPR has previously asserted that it does not use the Data Bank for two reasons: cost and unreliability. First, physician profiles from the Data Bank come at a cost of just below $5 each. Second, the information in the Data Bank is not foolproof, but must be double-checked before action can be taken.
But, at long last, in response to over a year of public pressure the agency has agreed to begin querying the Data Bank when alerted that a particular doctor may have a disciplinary record. Although this is an important first step, our experienced Chicago medical malpractice attorneys urge the IDFPR not to stop here.
The agency must put in place a regular program for checking physician profiles and investigating any problems which are found. It is phenomenal that such a resource for protecting the patients of Illinois is available, but remains unused.
For a free consultation with an experienced Chicago medical malpractice lawyer at Passen & Powell, call us at (312) 527-4500.