Two decades ago, if a doctor ran into malpractice trouble in one state, all he or she had to do was move to another state and their slate was wiped clean. This posed problems for hospitals so, in 1986, Congress “established the National Practitioner Data Bank: a clearinghouse for hospitals, professional societies and state regulators to check doctors’ credentials.” A ‘public use’ file is made available every quarter by the federal Health Resources & Services Administration, but scrubbed clean of any identifying information. However, STLToday and others have been able to find specific information about individual doctors and the Obama administration responded by pulling the entire data bank.
“The Public Use File (PUF) is not available at this time because the Division of Practitioner Data Banks is reviewing its procedures for disclosing information in a form that does not permit the identification of any particular health care entity, physician, other healthcare practitioner, or patient. The PUF may be available after a thorough analysis of the data fields to ensure the protection of confidential information is completed. The data in the PUF will also be examined in conjunction with other publicly available data sets to reduce disclosure risks.”