A 2010 New England Journal of Medicine study concluded that as many as 25 percent of all hospitalized patients will experience a preventable medical error of some kind, and 100,000 will die annually because of errors. If medical error were a disease, it would be the sixth-leading cause of death in the country.How can we as consumers of healthcare make informed choices when we don't have information on where the best and safest care is provided?
Take, for instance, the National Practitioner Data Bank collected by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, which is also known as the national “blacklist” of doctors. The public has absolutely no access to it. When I requested the list, I was given a version with the doctors’ names deleted; the only groups that can query the list are state medical boards or human-resources departments doing background checks. Ironically, sex offenders’ names are broadcast to the community when they move into town, but doctors who lose their license in one state because of sexual misconduct with a patient are shielded by name in the database if their license is later restored or if they continue to practice medicine in another state.Competition and the free flow of information improves any product, industry, group of people. At least one state, New York, is doing it right: