We were about 50 minutes into last Friday’s program when the discussion turned to potential solutions for the problems we had discussed, and a great idea was offered. The program was our new webinar, The Hot Seat, sponsored by Sharpline Allocations, and the topic was “Violating Trust: Ethical Conundrums in Workers’ Compensation.” The great idea came from one of our guests, Texas attorney Stuart Colburn.

One of the issues we had discussed at length was the persistent re-emergence of habitually bad doctors; physicians who get in trouble, voluntarily surrender their license, and then are miraculously born again in another state, fully licensed and ready to wreak havoc on an injured and innocent population. It turns out it is far too easy for a crappy doctor to be reborn and practice again. 

Except that for these guys, practice never seems to make perfect.

I wrote about one such case several years ago. A doctor in Colorado “voluntarily” surrendered her license after numerous malpractice lawsuits and a disciplinary hearing over multiple wrong side surgeries. She admitted wrongdoing in 4 such cases (there were many more), and voluntarily surrendered her license to avoid further disciplinary action. She then moved to Illinois, where she became licensed again as a physician. We can assume she did not disclose her previous relinquishment in Colorado, and without such disclosure the licensing boards elsewhere would have no way of knowing of her less than stellar past. She eventually faced numerous wrong side surgery complaints there, once again surrendered her license, and moved on to become licensed in New York, where she was admitted to practice at one of the more prestigious hospitals in the state. 

I suggested in my blog at the time that they should turn the operating table around so that she had a better than average chance of getting the correct side. Either that or give her intensive training on “lefty loosey, righty tighty.” It is sad, but it is pretty clear to me that we cannot depend on the medical community to adequately police their own.

(That blog article prompted the threat of a lawsuit. It seems my well-intended training suggestions were not fully appreciated) 

I posed the question to Colburn and our other guest, California Applicant Attorney Robert Rassp, asking how we could better insure that these habitually poor doctors don’t repeatedly surface to do more damage to the patients in our charge. Colburn made a suggestion, one that is a simple concept but likely difficult to achieve. He suggested states could come together to support a reciprocal database that lists all physician license terminations, suspensions and voluntary renouncements. Licensing boards would be required to enter all such occurrences into the database, and all would be able to use it in licensing decisions. No longer would we be victims to the moral turpitude of the less than stellar doctor who fails to honestly disclose their general incompetence.

Colburn compared such a database to the Prescription Monitoring Database Programs (PDMP) now in operation in all states but Missouri. It is an apt comparison, but with some distinct differences. The Crappy Doctor Database would need to be fully reciprocal and national in scope to be effective. One of the complaints about PMDP’s today is that their state specific origins allow people to doctor shop in neighboring states without detection. One benefit the Crappy Doctor Database would have is that it would not be subject to the same ridiculous privacy concerns that have hampered use of the PDMP’s in some areas. Since the subject matter would simply be factual occurrences related to job performance, and not personal medical information, the occasionally death inducing HIPAA regulations would not apply (and if you don’t believe that privacy sometimes kills, I have a bridge in New York I’d like to sell you).

Obviously getting state legislators and regulatory bodies to agree on this common goal would be a herculean task. Still, the idea is sound, and deserves strong consideration. It is pretty clear that the medical community is unable or unwilling to confront their poorest performers. We owe it to ourselves and our injured to try and create a tool that will alleviate that risk.

I don’t know how it will happen, but if it does, I dearly hope they call it the Crappy Doctor Database. It has a nice ring to it, and it would be absolute truth in labeling, if there ever was such a thing.

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