The entity responsible for regulating the practice of medicine in Texas is the Texas Medical Board (TMB). Accordingly, this agency has the obligation and authority to investigate and adjudicate complaints filed against medical providers or those allegedly practicing medicine without a license. As part of that disciplinary procedure, the TMB follows a process that begins with a complaint and ends with final action or possibly an appellate decision. In this second article of a six-part series, we will provide a fuller picture of the initial review phase that follows the submission of a complaint.
The initial review of a complaint filed with the TMB is a crucial step principally because it is at this stage where the agency determines whether the complaint merits further investigation. Specifically, it assesses whether the complaint falls within the TMB's jurisdiction, reviews it for completeness, verifies the supporting documents, and ultimately determines to move forward or not to the investigation phase.
When a complaint is received, TMB staff first evaluates whether it falls within the board's jurisdiction. The TMB's primary responsibility is to regulate the practice of medicine in Texas and oversee licensed medical professionals. Complaints related to other healthcare providers, such as nurses or dentists, are outside the purview of the TMB. And if the complaint relates to a provider’s conduct in those fields or others, it may be referred to the appropriate licensing boards.
Completeness of the Complaint
TMB staff will review the complaint to ensure that it contains sufficient information for further evaluation. The complaint should include details about the provider involved, the nature of the complaint, and any supporting documentation or evidence.
Review of Supporting Documents
If the complainant has provided medical records, correspondence, or other documents, the TMB will review these materials at this stage to better understand the matter associated with the alleged grievance. TMB staff may then contact the complainant to request additional information or clarification if the initial complaint is unclear or lacks essential details.
Determination of Initial Review
Based on the initial review, the TMB will make a preliminary determination regarding the complaint's validity and whether it warrants further investigation. If the complaint does not fall within the TMB's jurisdiction or is determined to lack merit, the TMB may close the case without further action.
Referral to Investigation
If the initial review suggests that the complaint raises valid concerns about a doctor's conduct or medical practice, however, it is forwarded for further investigation, which involves gathering more information, interviewing witnesses, and assessing the medical care that forms the basis of the complaint.
It is important to note that the initial review is just the first step in the disciplinary process after the filing of a complaint. The TMB takes all complaints seriously and endeavors to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation when warranted. The goal is to protect the public by ensuring that healthcare professionals in Texas adhere to the standards of care and ethics expected of them. If a complaint proceeds to investigation, it may lead to a formal hearing and possible disciplinary actions if misconduct or substandard care is substantiated.