From Dr. Janelle A. Rhyne, president of the North Carolina Medical Board, in response to “Disclosing doctors' errors” by Dr. Hadley Callaway (June 19):
As directed by a state law that took effect Oct. 1, 2007, the North Carolina Medical Board is indeed moving forward with plans to publish, among other things, information on medical providers' malpractice histories.
As Dr. Hadley Callaway noted in his article, the board has proposed publishing all malpractice payments. He suggests doing so will be misleading to the public and unfair to physicians. By way of example, he argues that some of the best doctors in the state practice in high-risk fields that are more likely than others to generate malpractice payments.
Dr. Callaway did not mention that, in addition to stating whether a payment has been made, the board will indicate how common malpractice payments are among physicians of the same specialty. This should provide context for those in high-risk fields such as obstetrics or neurosurgery.
Each profile will also include a statement that a payment is not evidence of negligence or that substandard care was provided. Practitioners with payments will have the opportunity to write a brief explanation of each case that led to a payment. In addition, the board will indicate whether the malpractice payment led to public disciplinary action by the board.
The board's goal is not to harm physicians. It is to provide the public with the greatest amount of information, while at the same time providing essential context.