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Grassley questions HRSA public database shutdown decision

CMIO, October 12, 2011

Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-IA) has asked Mary K. Wakefield, PhD, RN, administrator of the Health Research and Services Administration to schedule an in-depth briefing on the issues surrounding the decision to shut down public access to the National Practitioner Data Bank's Public Use File. In a letter dated Oct. 7, Grassley sent a letter about the matter stating that the NPDB PUF serves as the backbone for providing transparency for "bad acting healthcare practitioners." However, in light of one Kansas City Star reporter shining on their abilities to identify a physician's databank record by comparing de-identified information with state court records, HRSA wrote the reporter Aug. 26, "threatening monetary penalities for 'republication of information obtained from the NPDB.'" Wrote Grassley: "It seems disturbing and bizarre that HRSA would attempt to chill a reporter's First Amendment activity with threats of fines for merely 'republishing' public information from one source and connecting it with public information from another..."