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N.C. includes more disciplinary actions in physician profiles

Visitors to the state medical board Web site can see a physician's malpractice suit settlements, among other things.

By — Posted Dec. 30, 2009

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The North Carolina Medical Board has begun posting online a broad range of disciplinary actions taken against physicians and physician assistants (link).

Among the information now included in profiles are final suspensions or revocations of hospital privileges; final disciplinary orders of any regulatory agency or board; felony convictions; misdemeanor convictions involving offenses against a person; offenses of moral turpitude and those involving drugs or alcohol or violations of public health and safety codes; and certain malpractice lawsuit payment information.

The disciplinary information, which physicians and physician assistants are required to report, make North Carolina's physician profiles among the most comprehensive in the nation. Of the 70 state medical boards, about 65 feature online data, and 25 of those include at least some disciplinary information.

The North Carolina expansion comes in response to a 2007 state law authorizing the additional information. Previously, the board had posted only a professional's disciplinary history with the North Carolina Medical Board.

The North Carolina Medical Society objected to the broad scope of the malpractice case information that was to be posted on the board's Web site and was able to have it modified before the postings began on Dec. 1, said Steve Keene, the medical society's general counsel and deputy executive vice president for Government Affairs and Health Policy.

The original legislation called for publishing malpractice settlements of $25,000 or higher, but additional legislation raised the settlement rate to at least $75,000. The lower settlement rate would have created a disincentive to settle smaller claims that might have generated high legal costs, Keene said.

The medical society also pursued and won a modification that limits the posting of settlements to those decided after the modified legislation was signed in May 2008. The earlier law had called for postings of settled suits going back seven years.

The added data have generated much Web traffic, said medical board spokeswoman Dena Konkel. Visits to the board's Web pages, which had totaled about 9,000 on a typical Tuesday, soared to more than 63,000 the day after the expanded site was publicized on Dec. 14.

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