Data hunt a wicked Web: study
* Much of the information about doctors and medical care on the Internet is incomplete, inaccurate or so poorly organized as to be almost useless, according to a gloomy assessment by researchers at the Massachusetts Health Data Consortium. With support from the Commonwealth Fund, the researchers analyzed 40 Web sites that offer information about physicians, including commercial sites, such as Health Grades, hospital-sponsored sites and the American Medical Association's own offering. In "many instances," Web sites posted "incomplete, missing, and possibly inaccurate or outdated data," the researchers said in their recent report. Other problems included providing information about only a limited number of physicians, poor organization and difficulties in searching the sites. Among other measures, the report urges Web sites to include disclosure statements about data sources, whether fees were required, when the data were last updated, the size of the database and what percentage of the active physician population it contains.
Docs get insurance help
* With physician retention and recruitment foundering because of malpractice insurance problems, 265-bed Bluefield (W.Va.) Regional Medical Center has helped start a for-profit insurer for physicians who practice at the hospital. The hospital's board recently voted to provide a $5 million loan to Regional Physicians Services, which is a partnership between the hospital and AP Indemnity, Bermuda. The hospital has lost 12 doctors, mostly specialists, in the past eight months because of malpractice insurance issues and has been able to replace only two of them. West Virginia legislators passed a law last year that sets up a temporary state-run insurance pool, but officials said temporary insurance would force doctors to endure the arduous process of switching carriers twice. The new law also made it more difficult for plaintiffs to sue for malpractice claims.