A new online tool designed to help the public lodge complaints against medical doctors and other health care professionals is working, an official said during a recent Oklahoma Medical Board meeting.
Launched less than six months ago, the online complaint form has seen gripes against doctors and other licensed medical professionals increase significantly.
The Oklahoma Board of Medical Licensure and Supervision oversees thousands of doctors, physician assistants and other professionals working with patients in the state.
Doctors and other health care professionals can have their licenses revoked, suspended or placed on probation, depending on what the medical board decides. Punishments are usually meted out following complaints of substance abuse, overprescribing, sexual misconduct and other unprofessional behavior.
Reji Varghese, deputy executive director of the medical board, said the increased number of complaints isn't expected to cause any long-term hardships for the agency's five full-time investigators.
So far this year, the agency has fielded 305 complaints against medical doctors and other licensed health care professionals. At that pace, a record-setting 610 complaints are projected to be filed by the end of the year.
“It's a good thing ... we want the public to be aware they can file a complaint if they need to and we wanted to make it as easy as possible,” Varghese said. “Every complaint is looked at.”
Complaints against medical doctors and other health care professionals come from all over the place, although the general public is far and away the biggest source of the grievances, board records show.
Pharmacists, nurses, hospitals, insurance companies and other doctors all are listed in board records as sources of complaints. Some doctors, apparently, file formal complaints against themselves.
And while details of official disciplinary actions taken against licensed medical professionals are considered open records, complaints are not. They can even be made anonymously, although Varghese said those with an ax to grind may eventually be forced to reveal themselves.
“If it gets serious ... with attorneys and a full hearing before the board ... you may have to get up before the board and testify,” Varghese said. “That's all in public in an open meeting.”