All medical malpractice claims—except cases in which no payment or compensation is exchanged—must be reported to a federal database of malpractice claims, according to an HHS decision released in response to two state laws, Modern Healthcare reports.
Both Massachusetts and Oregon have state laws that might have allowed some providers who settled malpractice lawsuits outside of the legal system to not report such settlements to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), according to Modern Healthcare.
According to HHS Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality Director Richard Kronick, some studies have found that NPDB reporting requirements reduce providers' participation in "communication and resolution" malpractice program.
HHS's decision clarified that providers still are required to report out-of-court settlements to NPDB for any case that generates "a written claim or written demand for payment." HHS said that while Oregon's law was "explicitly designed to avoid medical malpractice reporting to" NPDB for such claims, "NPBC has no history of allowing states to define requirements for reporting."
Bethany Walmsley—executive director of the Oregon Patient Safety Commission, which administers the state's malpractice mediation program—says, "There was no intent to provide some kind of loophole" in the law, and that the "NPDB guidelines are followed, and continue to be followed in Oregon."
Alan Woodward—a board member of the Massachusetts Alliance for Communication and Resolution Following Medical Injury and past president of the Massachusetts Medical Society—says the decision "basically reinforces the status quo," adding, "This is what we've done since the (NPDB) law was implemented in 1986" (Robeznieks, Modern Healthcare, 8/13 [subscription required]; HHS decision, 5/20).
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Many physicians worry that more personal performance data means increased malpractice risk. In fact, concern over this issue has led some organizations to begin taking advantage of special data protections extended to Patient Safety Organizations.
But this is a questionable strategy.