After Massachusetts, the Deluge

by ANNE PAXTON

Editor, Professional Licensing Report

It seemed that Massachusetts was striking off on its own last year when it decided to put physician discipline and malpractice information on the Internet. But the reaction in other states suggests that the floodgates are opening:

Journalists love these initiatives. Their credo is that open information is healthy and the public has the right to know, especially where government agencies are involved. But even more than accountability is at stake with professional discipline, a system that has, by accident or design, shown an amazing number of anomalies. Three examples that recently came to light:

Is the release of malpractice and disciplinary information really a response to "public demand?" Or is it a symptom of a shift of power in health care, in which managed-care companies—not professionals—are calling nearly all the shots? Whatever its origins, the airing of disciplinary data is sure to expose more policies and procedures that, like these examples, just don't make sense.