Legislators push for Board of Medicine to release more records on doctors discipline

Oct. 28—CONCORD — Legislators on Friday sought to strengthen what the public knows about their doctors by proposing that the Board of Medicine publicly disclose those doctors receiving non-voluntary license revocations or suspensions by their employers as well as to list malpractice cases in certain situations.

During a meeting of the Oversight Committee on the Department of Health and Human Services, Rep. Mark Pearson called the draft report containing the proposal "a working document" subject to changes.

The New Hampshire Union Leader and The Boston Globe last month reported on the lack of information available on the New Hampshire Board of Medicine website about doctor discipline and malpractice payments that they or their insurers made.

Various groups, including the Board of Medicine and the New Hampshire Hospital Association, have been invited to comment on the draft report during a meeting of a legislative subcommittee at 1 p.m. Monday.

"Monday will probably be the last real big work on this," Pearson said.

Rep. Jess Edwards praised the draft report written by Rep. Jeffrey Salloway.

Edwards said its recommendations would strengthen reporting requirements and make the Board of Medicine more informed.

"They don't know what they don't know, and so we're trying to fix that," Edwards said. "One of the biggest issues that, I think, we discovered is that the Board of Medicine in all cases does not receive all the notices that it might."

Regarding transparency, the Union Leader reported that at least 29 New Hampshire doctors had made payments in connection with alleged malpractice cases in New Hampshire that were not reported on the state Board of Medicine's website. More than 50 other Granite State doctors had made malpractice payments for cases in states other than New Hampshire, including Massachusetts, that were reported on their websites, but not New Hampshire's.

During the 21-minute discussion Friday, Pearson said he doubted the oversight committee or its transparency subcommittee "will in its own names craft legislation."

"My guess is that different individuals from both groups will come together" to make a request in November to the Office of Legislative Services to have a bill drafted to be considered by the Legislature next year.

The three-page draft report said the Board of Medicine would be required to seek additional funding to pay for more staff and expenses to investigate complaints.

"We've been able to identify some of the obstacles in the process of reporting and indicated ... the necessity to provide the Board of Medicine with adequate resources to deal with an increased and improved flow of information to investigate appropriately," Salloway said.

The report recommended that the Board of Medicine must "with the intent of transparency, inform the public of its actions regarding any provider misconduct which threatens the quality of care or well-being of patients," the report said.

The board would be required to report any non-voluntary hospital privilege revocations or suspensions on its website.

"It shall report any NH or out-of-state malpractice suits found in favor of a patient over the past 10 years," the report said. "It shall report any NH or out-of-state Medical Board disciplinary actions."

Today, state law prevents the Board of Medicine and the state Office of Professional Licensure and Certification, which oversees the administration of more than 50 occupational licensing boards, from doing that.

"New Hampshire law does not presently permit the OPLC to post information about malpractice settlements and hospital employment disciplinary actions on the online licensure verification page unless the board has taken disciplinary action in response to receipt of such information," Lindsey Courtney, executive director of OPLC, said in an email last month.

Courtney on Friday didn't immediately respond to an email seeking comment on the draft report.

Testifying before the transparency subcommittee this month, medical board president Emily Baker said the board normally receives information about malpractice payments and cases.

"Everything that comes in gets investigated" at least by a board investigator, Baker said. "We don't have the resources for hearings for all of these complaints."

On Friday, hospital association president Steve Ahnen was reviewing the report and had no immediate comment. He plans to speak to the subcommittee Monday, according to spokeswoman Vanessa Stafford.