What medical professionals does the Board license and regulate?
The Board issues licenses to medical doctors (MDs), doctors of osteopathic medicine (DOs), physician assistants (PAs), certified clinical perfusionists and anesthesiologist assistants, and regulates their practice. It approves the practice of nurse practitioners and clinical pharmacist practitioners and jointly regulates those professions with the NC Board of Nursing and NC Board of Pharmacy, respectively.
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. See our brochure outlining the complaint process for more information.
What are some examples of issues the Medical Board cannot address through the complaint process?
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.
Once I file my complaint, what happens?
Here is a brief description of the complaint review process:
- Complaints will be acknowledged via e-mail or USPS once the review process begins.
- 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 Administrative Investigations 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.
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.
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.
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.
May I visit the offices of the Board?
Making appointments to visit the Board’s office are encouraged as the Board operates a secure facility. Visitors who arrive unannounced may not be admitted to the building.
Board Meetings and Hearings are open to the public, though some business is conducted in closed session in accordance with state law. Visitors who plan on attending are expected to go through a security check point and sign in at the front desk.
What is the address for the Board?
You may use either the Board’s street address or P.O. Box address to send mail to the Board. However, if you are sending a package or overnight envelope via FedEx or UPS, you MUST send it to the street address.
The Board’s mailing address is:
P.O. Box 20007
Raleigh, NC, 27619-0007
The Board’s street address is:
3127 Smoketree Court
Raleigh, NC, 27604
What is a doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO)?
A doctor of osteopathic medicine, or DO, is a specific type of physician. A DO degree is equivalent, though different in certain aspects, to a medical degree (MD). Both medical doctors and doctors of osteopathic medicine complete four years of medical education and both complete between three and six years of graduate medical education (residency training) depending on the chosen specialty. Both types of physicians must pass comparable examinations as a condition of licensure.
The main distinction between DOs and MDs is that, in addition to traditional medical training, osteopathic physicians receive extensive training in the body’s musculoskeletal system. This is the interconnected system of nerves, muscles and bones that make up two-thirds of a person’s body mass. According to the American Osteopathic Association, osteopathic manipulative treatment or OMT is incorporated into the training and practice of osteopathic physicians. With OMT, osteopathic physicians use their hands to diagnose illness and injury. Finally, most osteopathic physicians specialize in primary care, including pediatrics, family practice, obstetrics and gynecology and internal medicine.
What types of punishment do publicly disciplined providers receive?
Public disciplinary actions include public letters of concern, reprimands, monetary fines, limitations or conditions on practice, or license suspensions or revocations. Public actions are posted indefinitely on the Board’s website.
How often does a complaint result in the Board taking formal disciplinary action against a provider?
About six to eight percent of cases investigated by the Board 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 20-25 percent of cases, the case 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.
If a licensee has a public file, does that mean he or she has been disciplined by the Board?
Not always. For example, each year the Board executes several “re-entry agreements” with physicians and physician assistants who have no history of discipline or impairment. Such agreements are required when a physician or PA seeks to reactivate his or her license after spending two or more years out of active clinical practice. The agreement sets out the terms and conditions under which the licensee will transition back into active practice. The agreement is binding on the licensee and is a public document, but it is not disciplinary in nature. The best way to tell if a licensee with a “public file” has been disciplined is to look at the public documents available through the licensee’s profile page.