Database of Dangerous Doctors Gets Yanked from Public Eye - Page 2
“Reporters across the country have used the public use file to write stories that have exposed serious lapses in the oversight of doctors that have put patients at risk,” Charles Ornstein told The Times. He’s president of the Association of Health Care Journalists and a reporter for the investigative outfit ProPublica. “Their stories have led to new legislation, additional levels of transparency in various states, and kept medical boards focused on issues of patient safety.”
A spokesman said the feds had been contacted by the doctor, who was concerned that The Star’s reporter had obtained information beyond that contained within the database’s public use file. He hadn’t.
Still, HHS is reviewing the public use file and might change it to further assure confidentiality before posting it back on the Web. The spokesman said he hoped it would be public again within six months.
Ornstein noted that The Star’s reporter, like many others across the country, had extensively researched courts, state agencies and hospital actions, “allowing them to connect the dots” to individual doctors. The federal database did not reveal identities.
As The Times’ pointed out, other recent notable articles based partly on the database have appeared in The Duluth News Tribune in Minnesota and The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, which published a series last year titled, “Who Protects the Patients?”
The answer to that question, in light of the HHS withdrawal of valuable information from public scrutiny, would have to be “not the government.”
If you're interested in more on this controversy, including the name and address of the government official responsible for the decision, check out this blog piece on the Kansas City Star affair.