Public Citizen report: Hospitals not disclosing physician disciplinary actions

Though a federal law requires hospitals to report physicians who have had their admitting privileges revoked or restricted for more than 30 days, a Public Citizen report released today concluded that in addition to inadequate discipline of physicians, hospitals routinely exploit loopholes to avoid government requirements, with nearly half of all hospitals not submitting a single doctor’s name to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) in the more than 17 years it has existed.

 

The failure of hospitals to adequately discipline doctors or to report cases of physician discipline to the NPDB deprives state medical boards of critical information needed for regulatory oversight and creates the potential for patient harm, Public Citizen said in the report and in a letter sent today to Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services.

 

When the database was first created, federal officials estimated that hospitals would report approximately 5,000 cases a year. But since it began 1990, the database has averaged only 650 reports a year, Public Citizen found.

 

Pubic Citizen compiled the report by reviewing studies by the Office of the Inspector General, medical journal articles, work by the non-profit Citizen Advocacy Center and recommendations from an October 1996 national meeting on hospital underreporting attended by hospital administrators, government officials, medical associations and consumer advocates, including Public Citizen. Public Citizen also analyzed the NDPB to examine the relationship between hospital reports and actions taken by state medical boards on the same physicians.

 

The report points to two troubling factors behind the dangerously low number of hospital discipline reports:

•1) Lax peer review, including a culture among doctors of not wanting to “snitch” on a colleague;

•2) hospital administrators evading reporting requirements by doing things such as imposing discipline of less than 31 days, thereby evading the reporting requirement or giving doctors a leave of absence in lieu of suspensions.

 

Click here for the Press Release.

 

(SOURCES: Advisory Board Daily Briefing, http://advisory.com, May 28, 2009; Public Citizen, http://citizen.org, accessed June 2, 2009)