Consumers want to know if their physician is on probation

Most patients think it is too difficult to find out if their physician is one of thousands currently practicing on probation, a survey by Consumer Reports reveals.

The survey results indicate 82 percent of American consumers would want to know if their physician was on probation and why. It also indicates 66 percent of Americans would prefer physicians on probation abstain from seeing patients until their probationary period is up.

Through this survey and its Safe Patient Project, Consumer Reports compiled a report, "What You Don't Know About Your Doctor Could Hurt You," which shows it may be difficult and time-consuming for patients to find out what they want to know about their physicians online.

"You can find out more about the safety record of your toaster and whether or not it's going to catch on fire than you can find about your physicians," patient-safety advocate Robert Oshel, the former associate director for research and disputes at the National Practitioner Data Bank, said in a statement announcing the report.

Information from the NPDB shows about 2 percent of physicians are responsible for half of all malpractice payouts. Malpractice is not considered an exact measure of poor quality care, but multiple infractions can be a red flag, according to the report. If a physician was in the 2 percent responsible for half of all malpractice payouts, a patient would likely want to know.

However, patients do not have access to the NPDB — it can only be accessed by hospitals, physicians, law enforcement, insurance companies and a limited few other organizations, according to the report. Consumers are left to consult state medical board sites, which can be difficult to navigate and understand.

Consumer Reports' Safe Patient Project is pushing for more transparency surrounding physicians' disciplinary history, according to the report. It calls for physicians to tell patients if they are on probation and why, and for state medical boards to present physician records in a consistent, accessible and understandable way. It also calls on state boards to be more aggressive in pulling licenses of physicians who pose a danger to patients and for state boards to include more consumer representatives.

Lastly, to help level the playing field, Consumer Reports calls on the NPDB to open its records to the public.


More articles on integration and physician issues:

Nebraska Medicine to operate Internal Medical Associates
Consumer Reports publishes new primary care physician group ratings for 8 states
Almost a third of pediatricians report burnout in first decade of careers

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