Database of malpractice records now available to all

HealthGrades, an independent health care ratings company in Golden, CO, has compiled the first national database of physician malpractice records available to the public. Free detailed information on medical malpractice judgments, settlements, and arbitration awards against physicians in 15 states is available online at as part of HealthGrades' physician quality reports for consumers.

The database combines, for the first time, all available public malpractice records. It also includes the amount or range of payment and whether the resolution was a judgment, settlement, or the result of arbitration. In the HealthGrades data set, approximately 3% of physicians have a malpractice settlement or judgment on their record over the years 2001-2005. The true number is likely higher as HealthGrades data are based on state records, some of which contain thresholds for reporting claims, the company reports.

Still room for improvement

Sarah Loughran, HealthGrades executive vice president, notes that there still are challenges to improving access to physician malpractice records. For example, among the states that do report physician malpractice data, there is wide variation in how much information is provided and how long it stays on a physician's record. HealthGrades has added malpractice data for physicians in the following states: California, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, North Dakota, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Tennessee, Virginia, Vermont, and West Virginia.