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Holding bad doctors (and the government) accountable

The California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowships program is shining a light on our recent report detailing how hospitals are failing to report dangerous doctors to the National Practioner Data Bank. The program was established to provide journalists with tools to report on health-related topics.

William Heisel, writing for the group’s Antidote blog, calls our report “comprehensive and critical” and concludes:

The National Practitioner Data Bank will only improve if we keep the people reporting to it honest.

Heisel suggests this be done through the media. He suggests that writers follow up on recommendations and legislation years after it is passed to evaluate its implementation and/or success. By doing so, reporters can perform the essential function of holding government accountable. Had anyone done that in this case, they would have learned that hospitals were failing miserably in reporting bad docs as required.

Even more, he points out what the anomalies in our data mean for the news media:

One of the most interesting findings in the report is the clear differences that continue to exist between hospitals in different states, indicating that peer review of doctors can be affected by the culture of an area…On average, about 49% of all hospitals in the country have never reported a physician to the NPDB. One might expect a small minority of hospitals to have not had occasion to do so, but half? Someone in Wyoming, Louisiana, North Dakota, Montana and Kansas needs to investigate why about 70% of the hospitals there have never made a report to the NPDB. And, at about 60%, Alabama, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada and Texas all deserve some digging, too.

Thank you, Mr. Heisel, for shedding some light on how government could and should be held responsible for its actions, and how recommendations made to ensure the safety and well-being of all Americans are not lost.