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Access restored to problem docs data, with limits

- Associated Press - Wednesday, November 9, 2011

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Obama administration is again allowing public access to a database of problem doctors, but with strings attached that a journalism group says may be unconstitutional.

The Health Resources and Services Administration on Wednesday reposted the public use file of the National Practitioner Data Bank. It contains information on disciplinary actions and malpractice cases against clinicians, without identifying them.

A new restriction requires reporters and researchers not to use the information in combination with other records that can identify a problem practitioner.

The Association of Health Care Journalists says the agency may be imposing unconstitutional prior restraints on press freedom.

The administration recently took down the public file after a doctor identified in a news story through other records complained. The administration says it's trying to balance access and privacy.

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