Knowledge is key, especially when it comes to making healthcare and medical decision. The more information a patient has on his or her perspective physician, the better decisions that patient can make regarding their medical care. Giving patients more access to information about physicians may lead to less medical malpractice, and would keep dangerous doctors, who have committed malpractice in the past, or have been censured in some other way, from harming future patients.
According to STLtoday.com, in an effort to protect its state’s patients and to provide them with much needed information, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation launched the physician profile website in 2008. This profile gave patients access to information about the physicians and surgeons licensed to practice in the state, which total around 46,000. This database included information regarding physicians disciplinary, criminal and malpractice records. Patients could also learn how many years a doctor has practiced, what medical school they attended, where they have hospital privileges, whether they accept Medicaid or offer translation services and if they have published research papers.
This resource aided several patients in Illinois. The website where this database could be found receiving around 150,000 weekly hits prior to its removal in 2010. According to the Chicago Tribune, the database, which could be found on the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation’s website, operated between 2008 and 2010, but was removed after a decision handed down by the Illinois Supreme Court. The State Supreme Court decision which led to the dismantling of the site was regarding medical malpractice reforms.
In response to the actions of the Illinois Supreme Court, the Illinois Legislature enacted the Patients’ Right To Know Act, which was signed into law by the Governor of Illinois, Pat Quinn, in August. This Act, allowed for the reinstitution of the physician profile website, which again can be found at the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation’s website. According to both the Chicago Tribune and STLtoday.com, State Representative Mary Flowers, a co-sponsor of the bill, said that it was important for patients to have as much information about their doctors as possible to make informed decisions about their health care, and that the measure could help protect patients from seeking treatment from shady doctors who put lives at risk.
It is to the advantage of the citizens of Illinois that the state reinstituted this website. A website similar to one enjoyed by the citizens of Illinois would also be advantageous to the citizens of Georgia. Something similar is available in Georgia from the Georgia Composite Medical Board. However, this data base must be purchased, which likely poses a significant barrier to most patients. Possibly to compensate for this, the Medical Board Website also provides a link for prospective patients to begin an open records request, so that they obtain information on their prospective physicians. This may be effective, however, if there was a database similar to that that the patients in Illinois enjoy, the patients of Georgia would be safer and better informed, because they would know if their prospective physician had ever been involved in medical malpractice or any disciplinary measure.