North Carolina will soon make physicians’ malpractice histories accessible to the general public by posting them online, as more than a dozen states already do.

The North Carolina Medical Board (NCMB) unanimously approved the new policy in July, implementing a state law adopted last year. Starting in the fall of 2009, patients will be able to search the board’s Web site and find any malpractice settlements, verdicts, and judgments over $25,000 against individual doctors. Postings will start at October 1, 2007; ultimately, the record will go back seven years.

In addition, the listings will indicate whether the case prompted any disciplinary action from the board. Patients will not be identified, but doctors will have the option to comment briefly on the circumstances.

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Originally, the board planned to post all malpractice payouts. The North Carolina Medical Society objected, suggesting that “consumers would have no way of knowing if the payments have any signif-icance” in the context of substandard care. The society also raised several legal issues.

The board set the $25,000 to ad-dress some of those concerns, says NCMB spokesperson Jean Fisher Brinkley. Her research found that 19 states and the District of Columbia currently post payout histories. “There’s lots of variety,” she observes. “Some have amount limits, some don’t. The most stringent post payouts for 10 years.

“This is the direction the trend is taking,” she adds. “People expect this information to be available to them.”