Posted by Bill Sandweg on 06 May 2019.
What happens to bad doctors? By bad doctor I mean those who malpractice over and over. Turns out that a lot of them are still out there malpracticing.
A recent article in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine looked at malpractice payments to see whether they had any effect upon the way in which doctors practiced medicine. The authors looked at data on payments from the National Practitioner Data Bank to see how common payments were and how often there were multiple payments made on behalf of the same doctor. They cross-checked names against Medicare doctor data showing who was practicing where. They collected data on almost 500,000 doctors across the country who were between 38 and 65 and who practiced between 2008 and 2015.
What they found was striking. Almost 90% of the doctors had no payments made on their behalf. A little over 8% had 1 claim. Significantly, the remaining 2.3% had all the rest of the claims. This 2.3% accounted for almost 40% of all malpractice payments made during the 8 year period studied. These are the doctors that medical malpractice lawyers call frequent flyers because they malpractice over and over and get sued over and over. Because their malpractice settlements are confidential and because the state medical boards rarely take any action against them, the public has almost no way to know who they are or to be protected against them. It is a national disgrace that these doctors are permitted to continue to harm patients. The state medical boards know who these doctors are but refuse to act.
Contrary to popular belief, these bad doctors did not fold up their tents and move to greener pastures. With the data available from the National Practitioner Data Bank, their record travels with them, which may reduce the incentive to move on. A few of them decided to leave the practice of medicine but many just moved to a solo practice and continued to see and treat patients. It would seem that the bad doctors who practice in a medical group get kicked out by the good doctors in the group who are tired of having the group sued because of the actions of the bad doctor. A far better solution is to stop them from practicing altogether.
Everybody is in on the joke but the patients. The medical boards know who the frequent flyers are. The medical malpractice lawyers know who they are. The insurance companies know who they are. The other doctors in their medical group know who they are. The hospitals know who they are. The only people who don’t know are the patients and they are the ones who have the greatest right to know.
Demand transparency. Making medical malpractice settlements available to the public would be a great start. Stop letting bad doctors hide behind the curtain of secrecy when they settle their malpractice cases.