Frequently Asked Questions - Complaint Review Process

What will happen once I send the Board my complaint?

When the Board receives your complaint, it will be entered into our automated system and assigned a "control number." If your complaint is not within the jurisdiction of the Board, it will be referred to the appropriate agency and you will be notified by mail. If the complaint appears to be within the Board's jurisdiction, an acknowledgment letter will be sent advising you that the Board has received your complaint and that it will be forwarded to an analyst for review. If your complaint concerns the care and treatment you received from a physician, the analyst will request copies of your medical records and a written summary of your care from the physician, with your Authorization for Release of Medical Information. The analyst also may contact any subsequent physician(s) listed on your authorization form. When all of the requested records have been received, you will be notified that your complaint is being sent to a medical consultant for review. The reviews are completed by physicians practicing in the same medical specialty as the physician named in your complaint. For more information on complaints or the consultant review process, please link to our brochures, "How Complaints are Handled" and "Most Asked Questions About Medical Consultants." The analyst handling your complaint will notify you in writing of the findings once the review has been completed.

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How long does the whole complaint review process take?

There is no specific time frame in which complaints are handled. Once a complaint is received, it will be reviewed by an analyst. The analyst will gather the necessary information to evaluate the complaint. Depending on the complexity of the complaint, it may take several months to review and/or resolve. Refer to our brochure, "How Complaints are Handled" for more information.

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Will the doctor know I have filed a complaint?

The "source" of the complaint information (the complainant) is confidential and is not disclosed by the Medical Board. However, if the complaint deals with your care and treatment, the Board's staff will request a copy of your medical records so the physician involved knows that a complaint has been filed regarding your treatment. He/she will not be told who filed the complaint.

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I am having difficulty with the care I am receiving right now from my physician. Can the Board assist me?

The Medical Board is responsible for reviewing the care and treatment provided by physicians and will review the concerns you are having. However, the Board cannot intervene or alter a physician's medical care while he/she is providing treatment. You might wish to consult with another physician or, if possible, change doctors.

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What can the Board do for me? What's the purpose in sending a complaint to the Board?

The Medical Board of California is charged with ensuring that physicians are practicing medicine within "the standard of practice in the medical community." The Board's authority is limited to pursuing administrative action against the physician's license to practice medicine (e.g., suspension, revocation, issuing citations for some violations of law and requiring probation or monitoring). The Medical Board cannot assist you in pursuing civil litigation against the physician for "malpractice." The Medical Board cannot share any of the information, records or reports gathered during the course of its review or investigation with the patient or family members.

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I have heard that Dr. X is prescribing large amounts of pain medication to people who are addicted to this medication. Will the Board investigate Dr. X?

This concern can be investigated by the Board. However, to investigate a physician's care/treatment, the Board needs information on a patient or patients. The Board can't assess the "quality" of care without focusing on a particular patient, as the Board has no authority to audit or review a physician's medical records without patient consent (or a subpoena which needs to be specific to a patient). If you have any information which you think would be helpful or if you know of any patients who are willing to cooperate with our investigation, please feel free to contact the Board at 800-633-2322 or file a complaint with the Board.

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Can I file a complaint without giving my name?

A complaint can be filed anonymously; however, the Board has a difficult time investigating these complaints. If the Board is unable to obtain documentation or evidence of the complaint allegations, the complaint may not be able to be pursued. The Board does accept complaints from individuals who wish to designate themselves as "confidential informants." A "code name" can be used which would allow investigative personnel to discuss the allegations with the "complainant" without disclosing the individual's name. But, again, if medical records are required, the patient's name will have to be disclosed to the physician.

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Can I find out whether any complaints have been filed against my physician?

Complaint investigations being conducted by the Medical Board are not public information, so this information cannot be disclosed to you. It would become public information at the point that formal "charges" (or an "Accusation") has been filed. Enforcement-related documents are available on our website by selecting "Enforcement Public Document Search."

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Can I file my complaint electronically from the website?

Yes, please click here: http://www.mbc.ca.gov/Consumers/Complaints/

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How long do I have to file my complaint?

Business and Professions Code section 2230.5 states that any accusation (or formal charges against the physician's license) filed against a licensee shall be filed within seven years after the act or omission/incident. This means that the Board's investigation must be concluded, the case transmitted to the Attorney General's office and the accusation filed by the Attorney General's office before the seven years expires. If a complaint is filed just before the seven-year time limit, the Board may not pursue the case because there won't be enough time to obtain all the documents and have them reviewed before the seven-year statute of limitations expires. There are several exceptions to the statute of limitations including complaints involving sexual misconduct and care and treatment provided to a minor. You may contact the Board for more specific information on the statute of limitations.

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Why does the operator insist that I speak to or leave a message with the analyst assigned to my case?

The operators in the Complaint Unit answering calls on the toll-free lines assist hundreds of consumers daily with various inquiries. By connecting you to the staff person assigned to your complaint, the case file will be readily available and the staff person will have the most recent information about the complaint status.

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Can the Medical Board help me in filing a lawsuit or malpractice case against the physician?

The Board's authority is limited to pursuing administrative action against the physician's license to practice medicine (e.g., suspension, revocation, issuing citations for some violations of law and requiring probation or monitoring). The Medical Board cannot assist you in pursuing civil litigation against the physician for "malpractice." The Medical Board cannot share any of the information, records or reports gathered during the course of its review or investigation with the patient or family members, nor can the Board provide referrals to attorneys.

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Can the Medical Board provide help in finding a physician who takes MediCare or MediCal?

The Medical Board does not provide physician referrals. You may contact your local medical society in your area for assistance.

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As a senior citizen, how can I obtain information for medical services?

The Medical Board of California is not a "medical service" provider. You may wish to look in your local yellow pages under Community Services for Seniors or contact the Department of Aging at 800-510-2020 (in California) or 800-677-1116 (outside California).

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As a licensed physician, am I required to report another physician to the Board if I am concerned that the physician may be physically or mentally impaired?

There is no mandatory reporting requirement in the Medical Practice Act to report a colleague for possible impairment. However, as the Board's mission is to provide patient protection, the Board clearly is concerned about physicians who potentially present a danger to their patients. Reporting an impaired colleague to the Medical Board will allow the Board to ensure adequate protections are in place so the public will not be harmed by a colleague who requires assistance. The sources of complaint information are kept confidential by the Board.

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