Saturday, April 19, 2008
Health Care - No criminals allowed
I just finished reading a fascinating and disturbing book called "Blind Eye" by James B. Stewart. It is the true story of a mass murderer, Dr. Michael Swango, who went from State to State and Country to Country, killing his patients with poison injections. Surprisingly, he finished his medical school and residency training the same years that I did and his ability to evade his professors, teachers, hospital administrators and police was shocking. Even as a skilled sociopathic killer, I was amazed that he would be arrested and suspended from practice and then be able to pick up and go to another hospital and get privileges to work in the hospital as a doctor.
These egregious crimes occurred in the 1980's before implementation of the National Practitioners Data Bank. The NPDB was put into law in 1986 to encourage state licensing boards, hospitals, professional societies and other health care entities to identify and discipline those who engage in unprofessional behavior and to restrict them from moving from State to State. Coupled with the Healthcare Integrity and Protection Data Bank (HIPDB), these two agencies are designed to protect the public from incompetent physicians, dentists, nurses and other practitioners.
Hospitals and state licensing boards and malpractice carriers and professional societies supply the information on the conduct of practitioners to the data bank. Hospitals are the only health care entities with mandatory requirements for querying the NPDB before they grant privileges to physicians. Governmental agencies and health plans may also access this information. It is not available to the general public.
These data repositories are just one small step toward ensuring safety for the public. I didn't appreciate them until I read "Blind Eye".
Posted by Toni Brayer, MD at 7:42 AM