How bad docs keep clean records

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch‘s Jeremy Kohler and Blythe Bernhard used the example of one litigious St. Louis psychiatrist to demonstrate how doctors can work the system to keep their records clean and professional prospects bright despite work histories that are sometimes anything but. The strong anecdote provides engaging context for a well-analyzed report on the reporting of physician errors under the current system.

Critics say hospitals are underreporting and that puts patients in harm’s way. As long ago as 1996, a government agency concluded that the number of hospital reports was “unreasonably low.” It has gotten even lower. In 2008, the number of reports was three-fourths of the 1996 total, according to the newspaper’s analysis.

1 thought on “How bad docs keep clean records

  1. Rose Hoban, BSN, MPH, Health Reporter

    Here’s a tip for reporters who want to know how docs keep clean records… ask the nurses who work with them (or the local collective bargaining organization). While they can’t probably tell you anything specific, they can tell you where to look.

    It’s called intimidation.

    When I was still working as a nurse, I once dared to write a letter about a doctor who not only was inappropriately rude with me, but put a patient in danger in the process (“He’s not my problem.” and hung up the phone)

    I wrote a letter complaining about his conduct to the Director of Medicine at the hospital (an affiliate to my home health agency). In response, I was called into my supervisor’s office. I was told that if I didn’t apologize, that hospital would stop sending us referrals (they were about 25% of our business). Then I was handed a paper to sign, and a non-disclose statement to sign to boot.

    When I told my supervisor that she and I were being told to take it up the @ss, she sighed and said, “That’s true. But they have all the power. I’m sorry.”

    That was my last straw. I quit about two months later.

    (BTW… this is a very nice piece of reporting. Good job Kohler and Bernhard)

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