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Frequently Asked Questions about Complaints
Frequently Asked Questions about Complaints
Who can file a complaint?
The complaint process is open to any individual or organization interested in filing a complaint against a licensee of the GA Medical Board. Complaint forms are accepted from patients, family members and other members of the public, as well as from medical professionals and health care organizations such as hospitals, pharmacies, insurance companies, health care agencies or other entities.
What action can the Board take?
The Board only has jurisdiction over the practitioner's license. If we lack sufficient evidence of a violation of the Medical Practice Act then we will close the investigation and notify you via regular mail.
If the investigation establishes that a practitioner violated the Medical Practice Act, the Medical Board may order corrective procedures or disciplinary action ranging from fine, probation, suspension to the most severe measure; revocation of license.
Since we do not assist with monetary damages, you may wish to contact an attorney.
What complaints DO NOT fall within the Board's jurisdiction?
There is no law that requires a doctor to be polite, considerate or courteous to his or her patients. So, generally speaking, there is nothing the Medical Board can do about a rude doctor. You should, however, talk to the doctor about being treated rudely by staff or the doctor. If your doctor does not address your concerns, seek medical care from another physician. You could also reach out to your Physicians Hospital system to express concerns.
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.
Complaints against doctors who are not M.D.'s or D.O's and complaints regarding other health care providers or hospitals. Such complaints should be directed to the appropriate state licensing agency.
Insurance billing complaints should be referred to the Office of Insurance Commissioner.
Workers Compensation complaints should be referred to the State Board of Workers Compensation.
What complaints are within the Board's jurisdiction?
Three types of cases account for more than half of the Board’s complaints 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 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.
What is unprofessional conduct?
According to the Medical Practice Act, unprofessional conduct includes "any departure from or failure to conform to the minimal standards of acceptable and prevailing medical practice and shall also include, but not be limited to the prescribing or use of drugs, treatment or diagnostic procedures which are detrimental to the patient as determined by the minimal standards of acceptable medical care."
In general, examples of unprofessional conduct include, but are not limited to, physical abuse of a patient, inadequate record keeping, not recognizing or acting upon common symptoms, prescribing drugs in excessive amounts or without legitimate reason, personal impairment (mental or physical) that hinders safely practicing within the scope of one's license or certificate, performing duties beyond the scope of one's license or certificate and dishonesty. The Investigations and Discipline rules of the Georgia Medical Board, (Rule 360-3.02 and 360-3-.04), also provide additional examples of unprofessional conduct for which a licensee may be disciplined.
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 Georgia 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 Georgia from incompetent, unqualified, or unethical practitioners.
How do I file a complaint?
The Georgia Composite Medical Board is charged with the responsibility of regulating and disciplining doctors, physician assistants, physician residents in training, acupuncturists, auricular detoxification specialists, perfusionists and respiratory care professionals, orthotists and prosthetists. If you have a complaint about any other licensed profession, please contact the Secretary of State's Office at www.sos.ga.gov.
If you believe a provider licensed by this Board has violated provisions of the Medical Practice Act, has acted in a manner that is considered "unprofessional conduct", or has provided a level of care that would fall below the minimum standard of care, then you may have the basis for a complaint.
There are two ways to file a complaint with the GA Medical Board.
1. Online: Most complaints are submitted online. NOTE: Attachments submitted with a complaint may not exceed 20 MB. Complaints submitted with attachments that exceed 20 MB will not reach the Board.
2. Regular mail: If paper records and other documents must be submitted to the Board along with your complaint, send the complaint via regular mail. Please download a complaint form here. You may also call the Board to request that a complaint form be mailed to you.
Please give us your daytime telephone number in case our staff has questions regarding your complaint. Be sure to give the names, telephone numbers and addresses of all parties involved in your complaint.
Must I use the Medical Board's forms to file my complaint or will you accept a letter?
We prefer you to use our form: as the Complaint Form by Mail or Online is extremely important. However, if your letter gives us the details that we need and includes a written, signed and dated statement that authorizes the use of your name, the release of your name and the release of information to necessary individuals to conduct an investigation, we will accept your letter. If we do not have all the information or authorization we need to conduct an investigation, your complaint will be unnecessarily delayed until we obtain the information or permission.
May I file an anonymous complaint against my doctor?
The Medical Board prefers to receive signed and dated complaints. The Board's investigative files are confidential. However, doctors and other allied health care professionals within the jurisdiction of the Medical Board are disciplined through an administrative law procedure. At some point in this procedure a hearing may be required. In order to defend him or herself, the physician or other licensee has a right to face their accuser. This is a basic principle in the American judicial process. Therefore, the Medical Board does not prefer, but will accept, anonymous complaints. Please remember that if the Board does accept an anonymous complaint, there must be sufficient evidence, absent the identity of the complainant, for the Board to determine whether a sanction may be warranted.
Is there a statutory limit on when I may file my complaint?
No, there is no statutory limit as to when you may file a complaint with the Medical Board. However, as time progresses, it may be more difficult for our investigative staff to gather information to support the complaint.
Will my complaint be taken seriously?
YES! Each complaint is thoroughly evaluated to determine if a violation of Board policy or state law has occurred. GCMB may take public action only in matters where it is determined that a violation of Board policy or state law occurred.
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 mail or email.
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, 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.
Are complaints and investigations public information?
No, investigative information is not public information. A complaint is considered part of the investigative file and is not considered public information per se. The Official Code of Georgia Annotated (O.C.G.A.) 43-1-19(h)(2) and 43-34-37 state, "The results of all investigations initiated by the Board shall be reported solely to the Board, and the records of such investigations shall be kept for the Board . . . No part of any such record shall be released, except to the Board . . ." A complaint may or may not result in disciplinary action against the license of a practitioner. If the complaint does not result in a public board order, then the complaint remains a part of the investigative file and is not released. If a hearing is held, the facts and circumstances will be brought out and the complainant may be called as a witness. If the complaint results in a public board order, the nature of the complaint may be determined from the "Findings of Fact" in the public board order and therefore becomes public information.
Will I be told the status of my complaint?
You will receive a letter acknowledging receipt of your complaint.
If your complaint is within the Board's jurisdiction, we will notify you of the status of your complaint upon receipt of your request, verbal or written and when final action is taken.
Should your complaint be outside the Board's jurisdiction, we will notify you immediately via regular mail.
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.
What is a Public Board Order? What does it mean?
Public Board order means that there is a public document concerning the licensee. The existence of a Board order does not necessarily mean the licensee was sanctioned by the Medical Board or that the licensee, if sanctioned, is currently under any type of disciplinary action.
My doctor has a public board order. Does this mean the Georgia Medical Board considers my doctor a "bad" doctor?
Public board orders means that there is a public document concerning the licensee. This could be a consent order signed by the licensee, a notice that the Board intended to hold a hearing, the decision of an administrative law judge, a Board or court document, or another Board’s order including administrative orders. The existence of a Board order does not necessarily mean the licensee was sanctioned by the Medical Board or that the licensee, if sanctioned, is currently under any type of disciplinary action.
Please review any public documents carefully. Please note the dates on any order. The most recent order indicates the Board's latest action. It could also be something that is in the past and the terms and conditions have been fulfilled. For example, the Board may have required a doctor or other allied health care professional to obtain more training as a “condition of licensure” in the State of Georgia. This doctor or practitioner would enter into a public board order (a consent agreement) that is legally binding on them. Under these circumstances, a licensee or a physician licensed under these conditions would have a public board order on file with the Medical Board. This does not mean this doctor or other allied health care professional was sanctioned by the Medical Board. It simply means the doctor or practitioner agreed to meet specific conditions in order to become licensed.
What does it mean if a physician's license status is listed as Probation, Suspension or Revocation?
Probation: If a doctor or other health care provider has been placed on probation, this means the Medical Board took a disciplinary action and that action extends over a specified period of time. The licensee is monitored periodically by the Board to assure compliance with the terms and conditions established in the Board's order. The terms and conditions of probation vary and it is necessary to read the Board's order to know what they entail. Some examples are requiring supervision by another provider, restricting certain procedures, requiring the licensee to undergo additional training or to undergo medical or psychiatric treatment.
Suspended License or Certificate: If a doctor or other health care provider's license has been suspended, the doctor or other health care provider has been ordered by the Medical Board to temporarily cease the practice of medicine in Georgia until given permission to do so by the Medical Board.
Revoked License or Certificate: If a doctor's license has been revoked, the doctor or other health care professional has had their license to practice medicine withdrawn by the Medical Board. The doctor or provider may not practice medicine in Georgia. This is the most severe type of disciplinary action the Medical Board may render against a licensee.
When does a disciplinary case against a particular licensee of the Board become public?
Typically, a disciplinary case first becomes public information when the Board issues a notice of charges and allegations, a legal document that states the Board’s case against the licensee and provides certain details of the evidence the Board has gathered in the case. Once charges are issued, a public hearing is typically held and, after hearing both sides of the case, the Board determines what discipline, if any, is warranted. Alternatively, a case in which charges have been issued may be resolved with a consent order, which is a negotiated settlement that resolves the case without the need for a hearing. Consent orders are presented for the Board’s consideration in open session
A significant number of cases are resolved before the Board takes the step of issuing formal charges and allegations. In such cases, the case becomes public when Board attorneys, and the counsel for the licensee involved, present the terms of the consent order to the Board for consideration and possible approval.
Who prosecutes disciplinary cases on behalf of the Board?
The Attorney General Office prepares charges and allegations against licensees and prosecutes cases the Board has voted to pursue. The compliance department also assists other Board staff in following licensees who have entered into consent orders (negotiated settlements) with the Board or who have accepted other conditions or discipline to resolve a case to ensure compliance.