Federal Rule Will Conceal Investigative Inquiries Using Physician Database

Effective December 23, 2011, physicians will no longer receive notification when someone seeks information for an investigation from the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), according to a report in iHealthBeat, published by the California HealthCare Foundation. The change comes under a new federal rule, which is an exemption to the federal Privacy Act.

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) established the NPDB in 1986, with access restricted to qualified health care providers, law enforcement and other entities. Physicians can object to data they believe are inaccurate, but they cannot control the information that is stored in the data bank.

The new rule takes effect after the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) restored public access to the NPDB’s public file in October. Access had been blocked earlier in the year, after a reporter used data to write about a malpractice case involving a Kansas physician. Data from the public file does not contain personal identifiers, and HHS requires anyone using the database to promise they will not seek to combine the information with other publicly available records to identify physicians.

For more information about the NPDB, visit: http://www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/physician-resources/legal-topics/business-management-topics/national-practitioner-data-bank.page.


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