November 15th, 2011
Studio SPJ: National Practitioners Data Bank
By Holly Fisher
Back in September, the Health Resources and Services Administration removed the Public Use File of the National Practitioners Data Bank. The file was a resource for journalists and the public to gain information about medical practitioners, including doctors. Led by the Association of Health Care Journalists, a coalition of journalism organizations publicly objected to the removal. HRSA has restored the file to public view … BUT … there is a heavy caveat to the data being brought back. Users of the data set must agree not to repost or share the data on other websites, and cannot use it to identify an entity or individual (such as a doctor) by name.
We gathered some key players in this discussion together to talk about the far-reaching ramifications of public records with strings. Weighing in on this discussion are SPJ President John Ensslin, AHCJ President Charles Ornstein and Kansas City Star reporter Alan Bavley, who was threatened with a fine if his newspaper published a story that used confidential information from the data bank. The Kansas City Star chose to publish the information.
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