Information System:

National Health Practitioner Data Bank Has Not Been Well Managed

IMTEC-90-68: Published: Aug 21, 1990. Publicly Released: Sep 20, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the Health Resources and Services Administration's (HRSA) development of the National Practitioner Data Bank, intended to provide information on health care practitioners whose professional competence or conduct has been questioned through malpractice litigation or other adverse professional actions.

GAO found that: (1) HRSA did not ensure that the data bank will protect the confidentiality of practitioner information from unauthorized access and manipulation; (2) HRSA did not effectively manage its data bank project; (3) HRSA either misplaced or did not develop critical documentation necessary to ensure effective management control and oversight of the project; (4) HRSA assigned some critical project development functions to the contractor developing the data bank, since it believed that its staff lacked the training and experience to perform them; and (5) the project's total cost was uncertain, since contract modifications were necessary, and could increase from $15.8 million to $25 million.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Deputy Assistant Secretary for IRM has agreed to provide technical oversight. In addition, HRSA assigned a program manager to the project who is responsible for all aspects of the implementation of the data bank and obtained contractor support to provide additional technical expertise in automated systems design and implementation.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Office of Information Resources Management (IRM), which is responsible for ensuring consistency with information resources management statutory provisions and the Department of Health and Human Services' requirements, to provide independent technical oversight of the development, implementation, and operation of the data bank.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Deputy Assistant Secretary for IRM agreed to provide oversight and assurance that appropriate system documentation is in place in a timely fashion.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should not open the data bank until he has assurance from the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Office of Information Resources Management that effective security procedures have been implemented and that software programs have been successfully tested.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

 

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