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The Coordinator's Column: Stats and Facts from IDFPR's 2012 Report
Posted on: 5/1/2013
Brian S. Zachariah, MD Chief Medical Coordinator Division of Professional Regulation, IDFPR

The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation and the Medical Disciplinary Board recently compiled and released statistics covering their activities for the 2012 calendar year. The Illinois State Medical Society has a full copy, but I wanted to take this opportunity to share some highlights with you.

The Board received approximately 3,000 complaints during the last year. The majority came from citizen complaints (54 percent) in the form of written letters and those filed online via the Department's website. The Department also received complaints from other state agencies, from the licensing and regulatory authorities in other states ("Sister State" complaints), and as mandatory reports from professional liability insurers, professional associations and health care institutions, etc.

There are more than 40 grounds for disciplinary action enumerated in paragraph 60/22 of the Medical Practice Act, and the Board reviewed complaints alleging almost all of them. However, the top 10 allegations account for more than 75 percent of the total number of complaints received. Overall, unprofessional conduct is the number one complaint reported to the Department (14 percent). Allegations to do with the quality of medical care itself (e.g. substandard care, improper care, incompetence, etc., combined) are a close second at 13 percent. (Note: A complaint can allege more than one violation.) Unfortunately, failure to complete the physician profile as required under Section 5 of the Patient's Right to Know Act (225 ILCS 61/5) was the third most common complaint in 2012!

It often takes months, and sometimes even years, to properly investigate and respond to a complaint, or for the respondent to complete the terms of a multi-year disciplinary order. So the number of complaints opened and closed in a given year rarely match up exactly. In calendar year 2012 the Department closed just over 2,000 complaints. Almost three-quarters (72 percent) of these were closed after an initial review by the Board's Complaint Committee found no violation of the Medical Practice Act. The remaining complaints were closed after Board actions such as a care, counseling and treatment (CCT) agreement, a non-disciplinary order, or after the completion of the terms of a disciplinary order.

With regard to disciplinary actions, in 2012 the Department levied more than 400 formal disciplines (a respondent can have more than one discipline levied for the same complaint). Approximately one-quarter of these were license suspensions of various lengths. Reprimands comprised 19 percent and probations 11 percent. Ninety-four physicians had their licenses either permanently revoked or placed in a refuse to renew status.

Sister State actions were the most common reasons to discipline a physician in Illinois. While the system remains imperfect, the combined efforts of the various state regulatory agencies, the Federation of State Medical Boards, and the National Practitioner Data Bank have largely eliminated the problem of a physician being disciplined in one state, but being able to practice with a clean record in another jurisdiction.

Predictably, unprofessional conduct is not only the number one complaint reviewed by the Board – it is also the main allegation (after Sister State complaints) listed in disciplinary orders issued by the Department (cited in 19 percent of formal disciplines).

Another large category of disciplinary orders include those that I’ve described in previous columns as avoidable, and therefore things I hate to see from my fellow physicians. These include failure to report another jurisdiction’s or entity’s adverse action, failure to respond to a mandatory report request from the Department, failure to keep or release medical records, failure to comply with a prior Departmental order or terms of probation, etc.

Board service opportunities available

The Board and Department had a busy and productive 2012. 2013 is off to an equally busy start. However, it’s not just the Board and Department which have a duty to protect the public. As physicians it's our collective image and reputation on the line whenever the public is harmed or their trust violated by a colleague, and I think we all have a role to play in preventing or responding to these allegations when they arise. You can help by serving on the Medical Disciplinary Board or the Medical Licensing Board, by recommending a qualified public member to serve, or by serving as an expert reviewer for the Board.

If you'd like more information about these opportunities, or if you'd like me to discuss these statistics further or the Department’s responsibilities and functions in general with your medical staff, specialty society or other group, please contact me at brian.zachariah@illinois.gov.

Brian S. Zachariah, MD, is a contributor to Illinois Medicine EXPRESS. He is the current Chief Medical Coordinator, Division of Professional Regulation, at the Illinois Department of Professional and Financial Regulation.

Disclaimer: Views and opinions expressed in the "Coordinator’s Column" are those of its author and are not necessarily endorsed by ISMS. This column does not necessarily reflect official policy of ISMS, but is intended to raise issues of importance to its members. Comments and questions regarding the content of this column may be directed to the author at brian.zachariah@illinois.gov.


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