How consumers can interact with state medical boards

How can consumers interact with state medical boards? – National Pain Report – by Geoff Sims – Oct 2019

Editor’s Note: When Dr. Thomas Kline tweeted last week that it’s time for chronic pain patients to “flood state medical boards with online complaints” about being cutoff w/ the CDC and “federal drug police invalid medical excuses, we asked Terri Lewis Ph.D. for an article that shows patients how they can do it and why it might be a good idea.

Many patients do not know where to turn when they have concerns about the competency or conduct of a doctor. State medical boards are government agencies, usually housed in state Departments of Health, that are empowered to investigate complaints about doctors and, when warranted, take action against them.  

Some of the most common standard-of care complaints include:

  • Prescribing the wrong medicine
  • Inappropriately prescribing controlled substances
  • Failure to diagnose a medical problem that is found later
  • Willfully or negligently violating the confidentiality between physician and patient except as required by law
  • Disruptive behavior and/or interaction with physicians, hospital personnel, patients, family members, or others that interferes with patient care
  • Failure to provide appropriate post-operative care
  • Failure to respond to a call from a hospital to help a patient in a traumatic situation
  • Failure to provide appropriate post-operative care
  • Failure to respond to a call from a hospital to help a patient in a traumatic situation

Disagreements about changes to the patient treatment plan fall into a gray area of monitoring and oversight.

The role of patient protections is largely left to a negotiation between the prescribing physician and the patient.

Calling it a negotiation doesn’t make sense because of the power imbalance. Doctors have all the power: they can do whatever they want without fear of reprimand, with or without the patient’s consent, while the patient only has the option to stop going to that doctor.

And when that doctor is the only one in the local and even not-so-local area that prescribes any opioid medications at all, I don’t see how a patient can realistically find a different provider to manage their pain.

Like those horrible “pain/opioid agreements/contracts“, when one party holds complete power over the fate of the other, it’s called coercion. There’s no ”agreement” and it’s not a valid legal document.

In a recent study state boards were queried about abrupt changes in controlled substances (CS) prescribing, to determine whether states have action plans in place to manage such situations, and were asked to describe the components of any such plans.

A total of 51 medical boards were contacted to determine states’ experiences with abrupt changes in CS prescribing, the extent of consumer complaints attributed to these events, and the types of plans in place to manage these situations.

Forty-six executive directors of medical boards responded.

  • Twenty boards (43.5%) confirmed that their state had experienced abrupt loss of CS providers and
  • 11 (55%) of these executive directors indicated that the loss resulted in increased consumer complaints.
  • The majority of executive directors (86%) had no corrective action plan.

Six executive directors reported some type of action plan or process consisting of

  • regulatory action,
  • patient-provider connection,
  • professional education,
  • patient education, or
  • public notice.

The majority of reports regarding physician misconduct remain unreported.

There is concern that legitimate complaints to Boards are often inadequately investigated.

In my own work, I have found that each state board operates differently with varying degrees of quality and accountability to the public. Some are politically oriented, while others are quite responsive to public concerns about safety and quality.

There are no consistent operating practices from state to state.

Each state has its own response system found in the links attached here:

3 thoughts on “How consumers can interact with state medical boards

  1. Kathy C

    My state is much too corrupt to expect any kind of accountability from our medical board. Complaints are routinely ignored , even when there is a potential loss of life. Our local medical board works to protect industry profits, and ensure secrecy. It is like the Wild Wild West here, anything that is profitable, and follows the current false narrative is fair game. They are not protecting individual physicians either, only the ones that work for the big profitable healthcare corporations.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. GZB

    well, this all truly sucks. I will say that I recently got a speedy response from the president of the board in my state. I asked on Twitter why my Pain specialist was feeling pressured to lower my medication to 50mme. I was told by P.A. that this was a hard line that had been drawn by state board. When I brought up a letter from the board that had been published stating the opposite he got very defensive. Said the doctor had been audited and had to bring in 15 patient files so the board could go over them with a fine tooth comb. He obviously found it very unnerving. Claims he was told by board that the only way he could avoid further scrutiny was to keep everyone, no matter the diagnosis or history, at 50mme or lower. The only exception was severe cancer cases, the cutoff would be 90mme. I questioned the board and got a speedy response stating they did not impose any limits. According to them (board) random auditing was a routine practice.
    So, another case of damned if you do, damned if you don’t. It’s so frustrating and completely political.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Zyp Czyk Post author

      90MME limit for cancer?!? This is a horrible time to need healthcare services for anything serious. It used to be that cancer patients pain medications remained untouched but now the anti-opioid hysteria is even hitting patients who are deathly ill.

      I see no compassion or mercy in these totally pointless efforts to stop using opioids as overdose deaths continue unabated.

      Liked by 1 person


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