For healthcare consumers, initiating disciplinary action against healthcare providers is relatively simple. For example, filing a complaint against a physician with the Ohio State Medical Board (OSMB) can be done online. Ohio healthcare consumers file complaints with the OSMB for various reasons, including physician incompetence, unauthorized practice of medicine, drug or alcohol abuse, patient neglect or abuse, and other violations of the Ohio’s Medical Practices Act. In Ohio, a medical malpractice claim is not automatically reported to the OSMB, even if it results in a favorable verdict or settlement. In a civil lawsuit, the patient can only seek money damages for injuries caused by a medical error. A patient must separately file a complaint with the OSMB in order to seek disciplinary action against a physician.
The decision to file an OSMB complaint depends on a number of considerations. First, when a physician’s conduct is particularly egregious, an OSMB complaint may be in order. Second, when a lawsuit leads to discovery of ethical lapses by a physician that are unrelated to the lawsuit, it may be necessary to file an OSMB complaint. For example, I filed a complaint after discovering that a physician had misrepresented the extent of his malpractice insurance to the hospital where he obtained privileges. Although discovery revealed that the physician was not liable in our lawsuit, the OSMB complaint was nonetheless necessary to protect both his future patients and the hospital. Finally, a complaint may be warranted if a physician’s conduct caused little or no harm, but put his/her future patients at risk of serious injury.
Once a complaint alleging a violation of Ohio’s Medical Practices Act is filed, the OSMB conducts a confidential investigation. Complaintants are notified at the conclusion of the OSMB’s review as to whether disciplinary action was taken against the physician. Complaintants are encouraged to periodically check on the status of their complaint by calling the OSMB’s Public Inquiries Department.
Complaints are anonymous, and a physician cannot take action against you for filing a complaint if you do so in good faith. If your complaint is based on personal knowledge of the facts contained in the complaint and the complaint alleges a violation of Ohio’s Medical Practices Act, then the complaint meets the requirements of “good faith.” On the other hand, if the complaint is filed simply to harass a physician or is based on false allegations, then it is not based in good faith.