The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services' Health Resources and Services Administration on Friday released a final rule on consolidating two databanks that track questionable physician practices.
Data from the Healthcare Integrity and Protection Data Bank (HIPDB) will be transferred to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), at which point the former will be shut down.
The two databanks essentially served the same purpose: tracking licensure and certification actions taken against practitioners by state licensure or certification agency, reports Bloomberg BNA. Insurers, professional societies and other groups also report to NPDB.
The consolidated data repository is to be expanded with new requirements that each state establish a system for reporting licensure and certification actions taken against providers.
NPDB is accessible to law enforcement officials and other entities. Its website allows practitioners to query themselves. Meanwhile, hospitals and healthcare organizations have used HIPDB to hire healthcare providers who are in good legal standing with healthcare regulations and Medicare and Medicaid program requirements, according to iHealthBeat.
A Public Citizen study of data from the NPDB from 1990 to 2009 criticized state medical boards for failing to discipline 55 percent of the nation's doctors who had their clinical privileges revoked or restricted by their hospitals.
"Either state medical boards are receiving this disturbing information from hospitals but not acting upon it, or much less likely, they are not receiving the information at all," Sidney Wolfe, director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group and overseer of the study, said. "Something is broken and needs to be fixed."
Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Carolina, Massachusetts and Connecticut have the lowest rates of physician discipline by state medical boards, according to Public Citizen's research.
Public Citizen has long argued that lax state medical boards fail to protect citizens from incompetent or dangerous doctors.