National Practitioner Data Bank comes under fire

October 1, 2005

The nation's central repository for disciplinary actions against physicians—the National Practitioner Data Bank—is facing harsh criticism these days.

The nation's central repository for disciplinary actions against physicians-the National Practitioner Data Bank-is facing harsh criticism these days. Critics say the databank has done little to address concerns of underreporting by hospitals of physicians who are subject to disciplinary action.

Under federal guidelines, hospitals are required to make a report to the databank when physicians lose or have restrictions placed on their privileges, or are suspended for more than 30 days. From 1990 to 2004, only about 10,800 reports have been made to the databank. That's a number far from what was anticipated when the databank debuted. What's more, consumer advocates say "it's not plausible that only about 0.75% of all the nation's physicians were subject to disciplinary actions by hospitals last year, or that only three of every 10 US hospitals ever disciplined one of their affiliated doctors severely enough to justify a report to the databank," reported Modern Healthcare (7/25/05).

Many critics believe that the databank should be replaced. State medical boards seem to be better equipped to identify bad doctors, and calls for an entity in the private sector to house the information have been made.