Researching the history of complaints filed against doctors can assist you in a number of ways, from choosing a physician to treat you, to building evidence in your medical malpractice lawsuit or insurance claim. Obviously, knowing where to start your search is essential, and this article offers some tips on where to look for complaints filed against doctors and other health care providers. (For tips on reporting on your own negative experience with health care providers, check out How to Report Doctor or Hospital Malpractice.)
The American Medical Association
The governing body for all physicians nationwide is the American Medical Association (AMA). Not only does the Association regulate doctors, but it also accepts and investigates all complaints against physicians. Because the association’s database is quite large, however, your search here might be better served if you were looking for a particular medical professional by name.
As the AMA sets rules for the medical field, it is also a good place to investigate general standards to which all doctors should adhere. Check out the AMA - Patients web page for more information.
State Government Licensing Agencies
Physicians are often required to be licensed not only by the American Medical Association, but also by the state in which they practice. In addition to granting licenses, governmental licensing agencies often collect data on malpractice lawsuits and other complaints against doctors. This information may be available online. Check out this Directory of State Medical and Osteopathic Boards to find the medical board in your state (from the Federation of State Medical Boards.)
Local Medical Boards and Associations
Many times, states or counties have their own associations and regulatory bodies for medical professionals. These boards might not be responsible for licensing, but will at least concern themselves with complaints and a physician’s adherence to AMA and local rules. Local physicians might join these organizations by choice, or they might be compelled to join by virtue of their practicing medicine locally. As these boards’ databases of physicians will be much smaller, a search for physician complaints can include your entire area rather than a single physician.
Here are a few examples of local medical boards and associations:
- Alameda-Contra Costa Medical Association (Northern California)
- Chicago Medical Society
- Harris County Medical Society (Houston, Texas)
- Atlanta Medical Association
- Philadelphia County Medical Society
The Better Business Bureau
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) gathers information on all businesses within a specific area. While it will not have information on medical complaints, it will have information on a physician’s practice, such as illegal collection procedures, billing complaints and other information. The BBB is a great place to check on a physician’s general business operations. Get started: Find a BBB in your area.
Most states require hospitals and other treatment facilities to maintain records of all complaints filed against their physicians, their employees, and against the facility itself. These documents would typically be held by the patient rights’ department or grievance committee. Access to these records may be difficult, but is usually obtainable through petition to the hospital’s board of governors.
Going Beyond Research
Doing research on a doctor or other health care provider is one thing. But if you think you might have a viable medical malpractice case, your best first step might be to talk with an attorney about your situation, to make sure your legal rights are protected.