Physicians skeptical about public liability database

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A new national database of medical liability records has raised eyebrows among the medical community. HealthGrades Inc., an independent health-care ratings company, recently launched a database to compile all available public liability records, reported American Medical News (5/21/2007). The database includes closed claims from 15 states (California, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, North Dakota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Tennessee, Virginia, Vermont, and West Virginia), as well as information on the outcome (whether it was a judgment, settlement, or arbitration award), and the exact amount or range of the payment, as available.

Although physicians encourage patients to do their research when choosing a doctor, some note that information on medical liability claims provides only a small part of the story. After all, such claims are complex; for example, patients may not understand that some specialties are high-risk and more prone to lawsuits or that a case is often settled because "it is more financially beneficial than a drawn-out lawsuit." There are also concerns that the HealthGrades database may not be accurate and physicians will not have the opportunity to correct misinformation.

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