Patients in Nevada, prepare to be patient when researching your doctor
The fact that you are now reading about Nevada says a lot about the way that state's medical board responds to public requests. After a tour that hit many speed bumps, Doctors Behaving Badly finally hit a dead end, underscoring why consumers should not be forced to jump through so many hoops to find out about their physician's backgrounds.
Hoop 1. No documents related to physicians who have been disciplined by the Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners are available online. So, in September, Jenn Harris, who has been helping me track down doctors on this tour, sent in an email request for all records related to two Las Vegas obstetricians: Dr. Jozsef Zority and Dr. Algis Martell.
Hoop 2. The staff at the Nevada board either has an aggressive spam filter on their email or not enough time to fulfill requests. By November, there was still no response to Harris' request, so she followed up. This time she received a response from Compliance Officer Johanna LaRue, saying, "I have not been able to find an original request for these documents." She also said she would be happy to send Harris the documents, but
Hoop 3. Public records are not free. Harris would have to pay for them. The price was cheap compared to what some boards charge: $6.50. And, if Harris had been able to provide a credit card number and have the records sent in an email, that would have been simple enough.
Hoop 4. Nevada does not accept credit cards. Harris had to send a check or money order. When you can pay a parking meter with a credit card, it borders on the ridiculous that a state agency is not equipped to handle that sort of transaction. The state would save huge sums of money if it just made the records available online and then used a PayPal-style service to charge consumers a fee, much the same way PACER does for federal court records.
Hoop 5. Requiring a check or money order creates a whole new level of paperwork. Harris had to make a formal request through the University of Southern California, the home of ReportingonHealth. That slowed the process down considerably. Nevada had to issue USC an invoice for the money. That invoice didnot arrive until early December. Why? Because the state does not use email for invoices. Oh, and guess what?
Hoop 6. The records are not available via email. LaRue told Harris that "We will send the documents out within 5-6 days upon receipt of the check." USC issued a check the second week of December. It is now nearing the end of the month, and the year. No records have arrived.
So where does that leave the patients for doctors like Zority and Martell? Well, if you were an expectant mother and you first put in your records request, as Antidote did, on September 16, you would be finishing your crucial first trimester before you ever saw a single document regarding your doctor.
Final question: What's next? Antidote will attempt to sum up some of the findings from this nationwide tour in two stories later this week. I am also very interested in what you think about the cases we have exposed, the lessons I have tried to draw from these cases and the suggestions I have made along the way to help improve physician discipline and patient protection. You can write me at askantidote [at] gmail [dot] com.