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Medical Lobby Blocks Illinois Patients From Accessing Doctor Histories

August 23, 2010

Until recently, Illinois patients were given free access to valuable information about doctors in their state, including whether a doctor has been convicted of a crime or fired by a hospital. Through the state-run Department of Financial and Professional Regulation website, patients in Illinois were able to research a doctor' criminal history, employment history, and medical malpractice payments (over the last five years). However, all that changed when the powerful medical lobby, Illinois State Medical Society (ISME), blocked the public' ability to access this information after the Illinois Supreme Court' struck down caps on damages in medical malpractice cases.

In 2005, ISME agreed to allow Illinois patients to access detailed physician profiles of Illinois doctors on a state run website as part of its coveted tort reform bill (aimed to reducing expenses from medical malpractice lawsuits. ISME agreed to this provision, however, with one caveat: if caps on damages were overturned, it would block Illinois patients from accessing physician profiles. Thus, within the tort reform bill, ISME successfully lobbied the legislature for a clause in the tort reform bill revoking access to patient profiles if caps were later held unconstitutional.

During the two years Illinois patients were permitted to access detailed histories about Illinois doctors, physician profiles generated 130,000 clicks per week. Based on these numbers, Illinois patients were actively researching their doctors in order to make informed decisions on which doctor they would choose for medical care and treatment. However, all this changed when the Illinois Supreme Court struck down caps on damages in February 2010. In response, ISME made good on its promise to block the ability of Illinois to access patient profiles on the Department of Financial and Professional Responsibility website. When the Supreme Court struck down caps on damages in 2005, as it had done several times in the past, the state was forced to remove doctor profiles from its website. Based on the language insisted by ISME in the tort reform bill, the State of Illinois now lacks the authority to provide physician histories on its website.

New legislation is the only way in which patients can regain their ability to access these doctor histories for free. In a recent e-mail, a spokesperson for Governor Quinn said the governor "supported increased transparency and public access to information" and "looks forward to working with the General Assembly to ensure that everyone in Illinois has access to the information they need to select a physician that is best for their family." ISME is against any such bill. In a written statement, the medical lobby' president stated that maintaining patient profiles would drain state resources and that patients can learn about their doctor' background from private organizations like medical associations, insurance companies, and commercial websites. Illinois Trial Lawyer' president, Todd Smith, said it would be a mistake for the state to keep the physician profiles from the public. Smith reasoned that "patients deserve to know whether their doctor posses any dangers to them."

Posted by Chicago Medical Malpractice Lawyer Jason M. Kroot of Kroot Law, LLC

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