The American Medical Association again took direct aim at the National Practitioner Data Bank when the group's 552-member house of delegates met last week in Orlando, Fla.
The AMA, which wants to abolish the databank, recommended that "relevant" information on physicians be made available to potential patients through a database operated by state licensing boards and "other appropriate state agencies"--not the federal government.
Top AMA officials have complained for years about the current databank, which primarily includes information about malpractice settlements and disciplinary action taken against doctors by hospitals (See editorial, p. 30).
"Malpractice suits are not necessarily an indication of the quality of care," said Thomas Reardon, M.D., immediate past president of the AMA. "It's a matter of a litigious society, and the fact that there are a lot of nuisance suits the insurance companies like to settle to save money. Good physicians get sued."
He said it's better left to the states to provide accurate information to consumers. "Why fix something that isn't broken," he said.
For the first time in its long battle against the databank, the AMA's opposition was buttressed by the federal government itself. A recent report by the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, concluded that the decade-old databank includes some inaccurate and incomplete information about physicians.
The GAO study, according to a report released at the meeting, "confirms much of what our AMA has long stated regarding the databank: It is a fundamentally flawed and poorly run federal program."
In its list of seven recommendations about the databank, the AMA's house of delegates called for the medical group to work with state licensing boards and other groups to create a database that would include such physician information as medical education, post-graduate medical training, practice characteristics, board certification, academic appointments and medical-school affiliation.