1. A description of the problem which has to do with money, influence, and once again, it’s the little guy who will lose out.
2. A call to action for those who live in New York State – where the most egregious of examples is taking place now. (And may be able to be stopped.)
There is no one comprehensive and accurate repository for information about a doctor’s malpractice record in the United States that patients have access to. (the key: “that patients have access to.”) Granted, there are plenty of doctor ratings websites out there, but their track records have been dismal when it comes to keeping up with even the most egregious of physician-offenders.
The one neutral reference we have had for learning about doctors’ track records, including the details of the errors of their ways, has been through state-sponsored doctor databases. Now, these sites have flaws, too. For example, in many states, the information found in them them is self-reported. But at least these sites have teeth, and doctors know they can lose their licenses if they don’t report malpractice suits and arrests.
Even the best of the ratings websites (like Vitals or Healthgrades) have only limited information about lawsuits – usually just that they existed. At least the state-run sites provide details like whether or not the doctor fought the suit and won, or lost, or what the damages were. Did a patient die unnecessarily? Did the doctor commit fraud?
(In fairness, keep in mind that just because a patient or family member files a lawsuit doesn’t mean the doctor was in the wrong. And, it’s true, often doctors – or more likely their malpractice insurers – will settle out of court because fighting a suit is such a long, protracted, expensive event.)
However – the point is – that it’s these state-sponsored databases that supply the depth of information we patients need for doing our research on doctors we might want to trust with our medical care. Further, state-run databases and sites don’t rely on advertising, or extortion, or selling our personal information for their income.
The problem is – in New York State, Governor Andrew Cuomo has decided to remove our doctor profiles site from the internet. He said it’s to save money – an estimated $1.2 million per year.
Yes – do the math – that cost is 6 cents per New York State resident.
I think (personal opinion only) just as likely is that many of the governor’s friends (physician or hospital administrator donors and PACs) don’t want that database to exist.
Now – even if you don’t live in New York, this should be disturbing to you. Too frequently doctors move from state-to-state to try to escape their track records of abuse and death. At least state-run websites aren’t beholden to advertisements and selling your personal information to profit. They are neutral and independent even if they aren’t updated 100% of the time. Further, if the site gets pulled in NY, then other governors will look at it as a way to 1. save money (a pittance, but to the uninformed it sounds like a lot) and 2. make those physician and hospital donors and their PACs very happy. You’ll lose your access to that information in your state, too.
So – the call to action for New Yorkers (with thanks to Ilene Corina for this information):
If you want the NY State physician profile site to stay online, and the requirements for them to be updated to stay in force, please call the governor’s office and let him know. It won’t take you a full 3 minutes:
Phone Governor Cuomo at 518-474-1041 ext. 3. Tell the person answering the phone that “I want Physician Profiles left in the NY State budget”. You’ll be asked for your zip code (no more – no personal information.)
That’s my 6 cents.
Do you have advice or a story to share that illustrates this post? Please share in the comments below.
Want more great tips for smart, empowered patients?
Read my book: You Bet Your Life! The 10 Mistakes Every Patient Makes (How to Fix Them to Get the Healthcare You Deserve)