I am having difficulty obtaining medical records from my doctor’s office. What can I do?
If the licensee/medical practice that has the records fails to respond to a request to provide copies of patient medical records in a timely manner (e.g. within 30 days) the patient requesting records may submit a complaint with the Medical Board. The complaint form can be found here.
Where do I access the online complaint form on this website?
What types of punishment do publicly disciplined providers receive?
The Board is authorized to mete out a wide range of public disciplinary actions that limit, suspend or even revoke the right to practice. A medical license is revoked only in the most serious cases where the provider’s conduct or level of competence is considered to pose a significant threat to public health and safety. Far more often, the Board acts to restrict the license by imposing conditions aimed at preventing future problems. For example, a physician disciplined for prescribing narcotic painkillers without adequately documenting the need or taking steps to prevent addiction might be barred from prescribing such drugs for a set period and required to complete continuing medical education on managing chronic pain. In some cases, the Board determines no action against the provider’s license is warranted but issues a public letter of concern. All final disciplinary actions are noted on the Board’s Web site.
How often does a complaint result in the Board taking formal disciplinary action against a provider?
Only about one percent of the 1,200 complaints received annually result in public action being taken against the provider’s license. Often when no action is taken, it is because no violation of the Medical Practice Act has occurred and the matter is therefore not actionable. In another 30 percent of cases, the complaint leads to private discipline, such as a confidential letter expressing the Board’s concern and cautioning against similar conduct in future. When no formal action is taken, the Board keeps a copy of the complaint in its permanent file. This file is an important resource that helps the Board track providers over time and detect patterns of behavior that might warrant future intervention.
What are the possible outcomes of a complaint?
Complaints are most often resolved in one of three ways.
- No formal action. Typically, this is the result when no violation of the Medical Practice Act has occurred. However, the provider is notified and the information is kept on file. This allows the Board to spot recurrent issues or a pattern of behavior that may cause the Board to intervene in future.
- Private action is taken. There may be no violation of the Medical Practice Act that warrants public action, but the Board is nonetheless concerned about some aspect of the provider’s conduct or performance. In such cases, the Board takes private action, such as a confidential letter of concern to the provider that cautions against repeating similar conduct. Alternatively, licensees may be brought before the Board for a private interview. The contents of the letter or interview are confidential.
- Public action is taken. In these cases, the Board determines there was a violation of the Medical Practice Act and takes formal public action. For example, this may be in the form of a public letter of concern, an order imposing conditions or restrictions on the license, a suspension of the licensee’s authority to practice or some other type of action.
Once I file my complaint, what happens?
Here is a brief description of the complaint review process:
- Complaints are generally acknowledged within 2 weeks via USPS.
- All complaints are initially reviewed to determine if there is a possible violation of the Medical Practice Act that rises to the level of further inquiry.
- If the conduct that prompted the complaint is not found to be a violation of the Medical Practice Act, you are informed of this in your initial letter and the case is closed. However, the licensee is informed of your complaint and the information is kept on file.
- If a possible violation has occurred and further inquiry is warranted through the Complaint Department a copy of your complaint is sent to the licensee for review and response to the Board; medical records are obtained as necessary.
- Typically your written complaint serves as your full statement and you will not be contacted by the Board unless clarification or additional information is needed.
- Case reviews are done by medical and non-medical persons once all information is obtained to determine level of discipline, if any.
- The complaint review process can take up to six (6) months or more.
Will my provider dismiss me as a patient if I file a complaint?
The Board has found that some licensees choose to dismiss patients who file complaints. Provided they follow all appropriate laws and guidelines, this is within the provider’s rights.
Will filing a complaint resolve the problem I have with my provider?
Most likely, no. The Board does not intervene on behalf of individual patients. Rather, it acts for the people of North Carolina at large. When the Board takes action against a provider, that action is aimed at preventing future problems and protecting future patients. Your complaint, therefore, can play a significant part in protecting the people of North Carolina from incompetent, unqualified, or unethical practitioners.
What are some examples of issues the Medical Board cannot address through the complaint process?
Many issues that are important to consumers do not fall within the Board’s jurisdiction because no violation of the Medical Practice Act is present. Dismissal from a medical practice, provided it complies with Board guidelines, does not violate the Act. Many financial and interpersonal issues also are outside the Board’s reach. The Board cannot help a patient sue a provider for money, settle fee disputes, resolve issues about disability ratings and compensation or mediate personality conflicts among patients, doctors and office staff.
What kinds of issues can the Medical Board address through the complaint process?
The Board is authorized to act only on complaints that may involve a violation of the Medical Practice Act, a state law that covers a wide range of misconduct. Three types of cases account for more than half of the Board’s public actions against providers: quality of care, prescribing (either self-prescribing or improperly prescribing to others) and cases where a provider is impaired due to alcohol or substance abuse. Many other disciplinary cases fall under the broad category of “unprofessional or unethical conduct”, such as violating patient confidentiality, misrepresenting professional credentials or practicing without an active medical license. Problems with medical recordkeeping and sexual misconduct or other boundary violations account for many cases as well.