There is a public file of physicians’ license records, disciplinary actions and malpractice payments. Called the National Practitioner Data Bank, the file is a federal repository whose records are updated by the institutions that manage doctors, including hospitals and HMOs. In fact, federal law requires reports to be filed with the Data Bank whenever a licensed doctor is facing certain disciplinary or adverse actions.
Would a patient's malpractice lawsuit filing also result in a referral to the Data Bank? It depends. For many, contacting the relevant licensing board is an included step in building a medical malpractice suit. That, in turn, could result in a report filing with the Data Bank.
Why is there such a close connection between medical licensing boards and malpractice lawsuit filings? Although the board cannot provide compensation to an injured patient, it may offer guidance or insights about the standard of care applicable to that medical procedure or treatment.
For example, the board will likely conduct an independent inquiry of its own. If they find fault or misconduct, the board might sanction the doctor by imposing a fine, putting his or her medical license on suspension or probation, or taking some other action. In the most serious cases, a licensing board might even revoke the professional’s license.
Unfortunately, the Data Bank may complicate a fair outcome for physicians. Specifically, a filing with the Data Bank may land a physician under investigation by the Pennsylvania Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs. Even a simple complaint of disruptive behavior may result in a Data Bank report filing that could potentially jeopardize a physician’s career. Fortunately, there are steps that can be taken to protect one’s medical license, starting with a consultation with a law firm that focuses on professional license defense.
Source: USA Today, “Thousands of doctors practicing despite errors, misconduct,” Peter Eisler and Barbara Hansen, Aug. 20, 2013