- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 25, 2001

NORFOLK (AP) Five months after its debut, a Web site designed to equip patients with key information about every physician in Virginia still has significant gaps that compromise usefulness for consumers, a Norfolk newspaper has reported.
Patients complain that the site, begun in July by the state Board of Medicine, is riddled with omissions and inaccuracies, the Virginian-Pilot reported Thursday. Profiles of many doctors note accomplishments and office hours but fail to mention malpractice lawsuits or wrongdoing.
In some cases, www.vahealthprovider.com is missing information that physicians are obligated to provide.
A listing for Dr. Martin Joseph Carney, a Virginia Beach plastic surgeon, notes he was president of the Virginia Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery and shows his license is in good standing. But the Web site doesn't say that a Virginia Beach jury in 1994 ordered Dr. Carney to pay $1 million to a patient who suffered partial paralysis after a face lift.
Under a special section labeled "paid claims in the last 10 years," the Web site reads "none reported."
Dr. Carney said he was unaware of the problem and did not know why the malpractice case was not on his Web profile.
"I haven't looked at the site, but I know the information is supposed to be in there," Dr. Carney told the newspaper. "I can check on it."
Problems with the site have led the medical board to investigate 10 of Virginia's 31,000 doctors for "alleged misrepresentations," said Robert A. Nebiker, deputy director of the Virginia Department of Health Professions, who helped begin the site. The board also has sent multiple warning letters to 900 doctors who failed to provide any information at all.
Doctors basically are on their honor to fill out the profiles accurately and completely. The Board of Medicine does not have the staff to verify all the information provided, Mr. Nebiker said, although doctors face penalties for lying. The board itself is responsible for noting if it has investigated physicians for wrongdoing.
Debbie Mallon of Virginia Beach said she tried to research physicians for her elderly father but gave up when she saw that almost none of the doctors had reported any malpractice claims.
"The site gave you background information, but nothing about whether there were any lawsuits. So it seems like the same old thing. The doctors are being protected," she said.
Keith Garns, also of Virginia Beach, said he tried to use the site recently to search for a neurosurgeon, but found it almost useless.
"It's not a lot of comfort to see no disciplinary record when you know the doctor is the one reporting the info displayed and that the Board of Medicine does not verify correctness or completeness," Mr. Garns said.
Because of complaints about inaccuracies, Mr. Nebiker said, the board may soon begin some spot checks.
Physicians who are found to have falsified their records could face disciplinary action by the board, which has the authority to impose fines or even revoke practitioners' licenses.
The Web site has no place to note doctors' criminal records. A law requiring physicians to report felony convictions took effect in July, Mr. Nebiker said, and the board is still figuring out the best way to report that data.

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