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News of the Day ... In Perspective

12/30/2006

All “adverse patient events” to be reported in D.C.

Under new legislation, all District of Columbia physicians, hospitals, and health providers will be required to report “adverse medical events” to a centralized database being created by the city medical board.

Physicians will also have 60 days to report judgments and settlements resulting from malpractice allegations and disciplinary actions imposed in another state. All information will become part of the physician profiles that the D.C. Medical Board will post online.

An adverse event is defined as one “involving the medical care of a patient by a health-care provider that results in death or unanticipated injury to a patient.”

The requirements, which are among the most substantive revisions in 20 years, are intended to “rectify long-standing criticisms about the board’s lack of action against troubled physicians.”

“It will take [the law] a light year ahead of where we were,” said Health Department administrator Feseha Woldu, who supervises the licensing of physicians.

Calling the requirement “absolutely meaningless” because of the vague definition, K. Edward Shanbacker, executive vice president of the Medical Society of the District of Columbia said that physicians “are going to have no idea what to report” (Susan Levine, Washington Post 12/28/06).

The database will have to be established by July 1, 2007, but it is not clear when information will be available to the public.

AAPS Director Lawrence Huntoon, M.D., suggests that if it turns out that all deaths or relapses have to be reported, “doctors will avoid taking on sick or complicated patients…like the plague.”

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