The Medical Board of California (MBC) is tasked with licensing and regulating physicians and surgeons in the state in order to protect health care consumers. As part of its role, the Medical Board may investigate patient care, in response to a complaint or after receiving information from another source. For physicians, the enforcement process often begins with a request for records.
Physicians who receive a request for records are required to comply. While the request may result in a complaint being dismissed, it could also lead to formal disciplinary action that may put your license to practice medicine in jeopardy. If you receive a request for records from the Medical Board, you should consult with an experienced San Diego medical license defense attorney as soon as possible.
After receiving a request for records from the MBC, you may be unsure of what to do next. Below, we outline what to expect — and how you can protect yourself and your license after receiving a request for records.
The Medical Board receives complaints or information from four primary sources: (1) the public; (2) mandated reports; (3) professional or licensee groups; and (4) other government agencies. For example, a patient or their family member may file a complaint alleging substandard care. Alternatively, a malpractice insurer may report a settlement of over $30,000, as required by California law.
This information is received by the Medical Board’s Central Complaint Unit or CCU. The CCU staff reviews all new complaints to determine the nature of the allegations made, and if the complaint falls within the MBC’s jurisdiction. If the complaint alleges that a physician provided inappropriate care and treatment, then the CCU will request copies of the patient’s medical records from the doctor in question.
A request for records is typically sent via mail, but may also be personally served by a CCU investigator. The letter is addressed, “Dear Custodian of Records,” and includes an authorization to release records signed by the patient. There should also be a printout of the applicable law in the packet, along with a certification form for the custodian of records to certify what (if any) records are being provided in response to the request.
Under California’s Business and Professions Code, the requested records must be produced within 15 days of receipt of the request. If a physician fails to do so, then they may be fined $1,000 per day for each day that the records have not produced, up to a maximum of $10,000. A failure to produce requested documents will be considered unprofessional conduct and may be grounds for discipline, regardless of the outcome of the underlying investigation.
After the records are received by the CCU, a medical consultant will review the files to determine if a violation has occurred. If it appears that a violation may have occurred, then the case will be referred for further investigation to the Division of Investigation, Health Quality of Investigation Unit within the Department of Consumer Affairs. This may result in the case being closed or referred for disciplinary action.
A request for records is made whenever the Medical Board receives information that may indicate that a licensee provided substandard or inappropriate care. It is an initial step that is taken whenever the CCU requires further information to determine if a violation of California law has occurred. While every request for records may not result in disciplinary action, it is an early warning that a disciplinary case may be coming.
There may be situations where a request for records goes no further after a medical consultant reviews the files and determines that a physician provided appropriate care. This may be the case when a patient or their family member files a frivolous complaint. However, in many cases, a request for records is just the start of an enforcement process that could lead to probation, suspension, or revocation of a medical license.
Throughout the enforcement process, there are numerous opportunities for your San Diego medical license defense attorney to advocate for you, starting with the CCU’s investigation. If the case is referred to the Division of Investigation, your attorney can urge the investigators to close the file — or to refer the complaint for non-disciplinary action, such as an administrative citation and fine for minor violations of the law. Should the Attorney General file a formal Accusation, your lawyer can plan a comprehensive strategy to protect your license and the ability to earn a living.
If you have received a request for records from the Medical Board, the first thing that you should do is to reach out to a San Diego medical license defense attorney. They can evaluate the request, help you respond appropriately and in a timely fashion, and design an approach to the request that will increase the likelihood of a favorable outcome. This request is your first chance to defend your license against disciplinary action and should be taken seriously.
The Law Office of Nicole Irmer represents healthcare professionals who have been accused of a range of violations, from substandard patient care to inappropriate prescribing to professional misconduct. Our team is both highly experienced and compassionate and will work hard to obtain the best possible result for your case. To schedule a confidential consultation about a Medical Board request for records or an investigation, contact us at (619) 237-6310 or email us at any time.