USA: The Dark Side Strikes Again

Posted on September 13, 2011


USA: This isn’t Star Wars, but if feels like patients and advocates are stuck in some sort of good vs. evil, Dark Side vs. Light Side battle with Sith lords. FYI to the Star Wars Geeks in the readership: Okay I loved the first three movies, and I didn’t even mind the fourth, but I’m not a hard core Star Wars universe aficionado nor am I well-versed in all the lingo, so I might  mess up on the references. You get the point.

There is a disturbance in the Force. The National Doctor Database has gone dark. Poof. Someone under the command of the Galactic Empire quietly flipped the switch on this national tool for the public reporting of doctor malpractice and disciplinary actions on September 1st. Here’s the official lame ass excuse, from the lips – or keyboard – of spokesperson Martin Kramer:

“The Public Use File (PUF) is not available at this time because the Division of Practitioner Data Banks is reviewing its procedures for disclosing information in a form that does not permit the identification of any particular health care entity, physician, other healthcare practitioner, or patient. The PUF may be available after a thorough analysis of the data fields to ensure the protection of confidential information is completed. The data in the PUF will also be examined in conjunction with other publicly available data sets to reduce disclosure risks.”As usual, the Light Side put up this meager protest: “We are troubled that HRSA has taken down a data resource that has been available for years to the general public, the media and researchers,” said Charles Ornstein, senior reporter with ProPublica in New York.

Could we stop being so damned polite?
The public has a right to know who is harming them and what their true risks are. That’s not just true of physicians. It’s true of hospitals, too. Especially hospitals. They’re set up across this country like so many Death Stars – and, if you’re attempting to get information about performance and patient safety, they’re about as impenetrable, too.
Yes, I’m feeling a little terse this morning.
Here’s the official memo at, what used to be, the database access portal:
Jedi knights Jeremy Kohler and Blythe Bernhard wrote this story for the St. Louis Post Dispatch. Read it here. Then don’t just go “oh well” and walk away. Do something. Write an email. Send it to this address:
Star Wars Image Copyright LucasFilm LTD.
Posted in: USA