Mandatory Reporting: Patient Safety Profiles

Patient safety profiles are compiled by many states to provide information to consumers on a physician's qualifications. Profiles usually include information such as the medical school attended, number of years in practice, as well as information on disciplinary actions taken by state medical boards and medical malpractice suits.

Patient safety is a key component of health care quality. Providing safe care and providing data on health care services and the effects of medical treatment can play an important role in helping patients better understand the health care system, and to make informed choices.

These types of physician profiles can create problems, though. Patients may shy away from physicians with higher reported rates of complications. But a higher rate of complications doesn't necessarily mean a physician is bad, it could reflect a willingness to take the most difficult and complicated cases. A desire to avoid a negative profile could mean that some physicians will avoid high-risk procedures in favor of less complicated, and possibly less effective, care. In addition, the filing of malpractice suits typically has little to do with medical errors, and the reporting of this data can simply serve to make good physicians look bad.