The Iowa Board of Medicine is authorized by state law to investigate complaints made by patients, other physicians, and personnel concerning physicians (M.D.s and D.O.s), as well as licensed acupuncturists. In such cases where the board finds that the physician has committed a punishable offense, it may take action. While the entirety of the board’s disciplinary procedures and possible disciplinary actions are available, this is an overview.
The Complaint Process
When a complaint is received, it is assigned a case number and a file is opened. Every week, the executive director, the legal director, medical advisor, and chief investigator meet to determine the appropriate level of investigation for each complaint. Cases that are determined to be within the board’s purview are immediately assigned to an investigator. Less serious cases or those that may not be within the board’s purview are referred to the board.
The investigator only investigates and does not assign guilt or innocence. The board receives the findings from the investigation to make a ruling. The board will decide based upon the summarized evidence presented whether any disciplinary action is warranted.
Because the board has limited resources, they must focus on complaints that may pose a serious danger to patients. These would include complaints that deal with serious competency concerns, patients that are harmed severely, severe medical errors, substance abuse, criminal misconduct, sexual misconduct, or other severe professional misconduct that may affect the safety of patients.
The board receives approximately 700+ cases every year. Of these, only about 10% of those cases result in formal charges being filed. 20% receive a Confidential Letter of Education or Warning. The remaining 70% are closed without any action being taken.
Once the board has reviewed the investigation, it can take several actions:
- File a public statement of charges and refer the case to the Office of the Attorney General for prosecution.
- Suspend all or some of a licensee’s privileges to practice and schedule a hearing to take place within 30-45 days. If continued patient harm is likely, and in the most serious cases, the board may issue an emergency suspension of privileges.
- Direct the director of public affairs to seek a settlement with the licensee. If a settlement is reached, it becomes public information.
- They may also choose to continue the investigation by referring it back to the investigator, submitting the case for peer review, or asking the licensee to submit to a confidential evaluation.
- Close the case and issue a Confidential Letter of Education or Warning.
- Close the case without action by dismissing the complaint.
As a part of a settlement, the board may take a range of actions. A combination of actions may be imposed, as the board finds appropriate. The following are some of the penalties a licensee may face:
- A formal citation or warning may be issued
- Place a license on probation which is subject to monitoring or conditions
- Restrict a license
- Suspend or revoke a license
- Accept a voluntary suspension of license
- Issue a civil penalty that cannot exceed $10,000
The investigative process can take some time to complete, averaging a few months or longer. The case remains open until the board decides to close it or orders a hearing.
A board discipline decision does not result in compensation for an injured patient. In this case, you will need an experienced, knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney. At Galligan Law, our Iowa medical malpractice attorneys and dedicated staff bring broad experience, expertise, care and commitment to each medical malpractice case we take on. Call us today for a free consultation at 800-217-9312!