Local News

Medical board wants malpractice records online

Posted May 23, 2008 4:31 p.m. EDT
Updated May 27, 2008 11:11 a.m. EDT

— The North Carolina Medical Board is looking at how it should report detailed information and what it should tell the public about doctors' records.

A law enacted last August, Session Law 2007-346, detailed some information about providers be posted on the medical board's Web site, but it does not specify how to handle some other information.

Since 2001, the medical board has posted any charges and allegations against doctors, as well as any disciplinary action the medical board has taken against them. It is now proposing rules that would include physicians' medical malpractice judgments over a seven-year period.

Board President Dr. Janelle Rhyne said the goal is not to hurt doctors but to better serve the public.

"The medical board has been criticized in the past for being too soft on physicians and not revealing full histories of physicians," she said. "We do realize that we do need to take a stand and provide more information to the public."

But those who oppose the proposed rules say doctors settle malpractice claims for different reasons, including business decisions by an insurance carrier.

"There are numerous nuisance suits always filed that have nothing to do with substandard care," said Robert W. Seligson, executive vice president of the North Carolina Medical Society, which represents the interests of more than 12,000 doctors statewide.

"Often a case is settled that has nothing to do with the doctor's performance or the quality of care which they provided," he said.

The medical society does not oppose posting malpractice judgments and settlements, but wants them to be only those that have resulted in public disciplinary action.

North Carolina has about 22,000 licensed doctors and 3,000 physician assistants who would also be affected by the policy. So far, the medical board has heard from about 400 doctors who oppose to putting the information online.

In addition to malpractice and settlements, the Web site would include discipline by medical boards in other states, felony convictions, certain misdemeanors convictions and actions taken by Medicare, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Food and Drug Administration and other government regulators.

The medical board says the site would have a disclaimer informing the public that lawsuits do not necessarily mean bad care. Doctors would also be able to post their own responses about claims against them.

A public hearing on the issue is scheduled for June 30 at the medical board's office at 1203 Front St. in Raleigh.

Anyone who wants to make written comments on the proposed rules can send them to the board at rules@ncmedboard.org or at P.O. Box 20007, Raleigh, N.C. 27619-0007.

Comments will be accepted until June 30.