February 2022 marked five years since Texas neurosurgeon Christopher Duntsch – dubbed “Dr. Death” – was sentenced to life in prison, revealing how easy it can be for dangerous doctors to transfer between hospitals. Now, KXAN finds Texas patients aren’t getting all of the information they need about some doctors’ histories. Our team searched thousands of disciplinary records from more than a dozen states, showing some physicians coming to Texas to leave their pasts behind – a discovery prompting the Texas Medical Board and lawmakers to promise change.
Part 1: Gone to Texas
KXAN spent three months pulling thousands of physician disciplinary records from medical boards across the country, cross-referencing them with Texas’ physician portal.
Part 2: Records Still Secret
If the National Practitioner Data Bank ever were to be opened to the public, it would require an act of Congress. That, experts say, is unlikely to happen anytime soon.
Part 3: One Doctor, Two States
KXAN looked at one physician licensed in both Texas and North Carolina – a state a recent study found among the most transparent in the country for health care – to see how Texas compares.
Part 4: Push for Change
After KXAN’s reporting, the Texas Medical Board proposes doctors should self-report discipline within 30 days. But at least one state lawmaker is pushing for more change to the system.
Part 5: Deemed a ‘Threat’
The first duty of medicine is to “do no harm.” But is the Texas Medical Board letting doctors with dangerous pasts still practice? That’s what a TMB whistleblower and patient advocates fear.
Part 6: Patients & Politics
Texas’ governor tapped top-dollar donors to sit on the Texas Medical Board – some with no obvious patient advocacy or medical experience, a KXAN investigation revealed.
Part 7: National Attention
An expert panel at the Association of Health Care Journalists’ annual conference attempts to answer the question: “10 years after ‘Dr. Death,’ are patients any safer from bad doctors?”
Part 8: Calls for Reform
A fifth state lawmaker – a Texas State Senator – is now looking to propose legislation next session in response to a series of KXAN investigations into the Texas Medical Board.
Part 9: Candidate’s Criticism
Following KXAN’s coverage, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O’Rourke is pledging, if elected, to increase patient safety statewide by transforming the Texas Medical Board.
Part 10: Rule Change Approved
The Texas Medical Board votes on a major rule change for patient safety, a direct result of KXAN’s investigation. Also, for the first time, the board’s president answers our questions.
Part 11: Secret Malpractice Suits
KXAN analyzed medical malpractice lawsuits filed in Texas over the last decade. 97% were settled out of court or handled by a judge – outcomes which can legally be kept secret.
Part 12: National Reform Unlikely
Eight members of Congress would not speak on this issue, including Senate health leaders. Only a Texas congressman – and doctor – who opposes changes agreed to be interviewed.
Part 13: Legislator Drafts Bill
In direct response to KXAN’s investigation into medical error transparency, a state lawmaker is proposing several fixes and has already drafted a bill for the upcoming session.
Part 14: Bill Filed After KXAN Report
A yearlong series of KXAN investigations results in a major transparency bill filed, aimed at reforming the Texas Medical Board and forcing more focus on patient safety.
Part 15: House Committee Hearing
A state lawmaker says she filed a “meaningful” patient safety bill in direct response to a series of KXAN reports into systems that allow problem doctors to keep practicing in Texas.