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WA governor signs doctor complaint reform bill

April 22, 2011

Governor Gregoire Signs Bill To Create More Transparency
When Patients File Complaints Against Healthcare Workers

Washington Law Could Serve As A Model For Other States

OLYMPIA, WA – Patients in Washington who file complaints against doctors and other healthcare providers will be able to find out more information about the status of their complaints and how they are handled under a bill that Governor Christine Gregoire sign into law today. HB 1493 improves the process for holding doctors and other healthcare workers accountable for unprofessional conduct and unsafe care, according to Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports.
“Unfortunately medical boards in most states don’t do a good job when it comes to responding to complaints and keeping patients informed about their investigations,” said Suzanne Henry, policy analyst for Consumers Union’s Safe Patient Project (www.safepatientproject.org). “This new law gives patients a better opportunity to have their complaints taken seriously and could serve as a model for other states looking to hold doctors accountable when they fail to maintain high standards for patient care.”
Healthcare workers in Washington are subject to disciplinary action under the Uniform Disciplinary Act (UDA). The UDA gives the Department of Health and various state medical boards and commissions the authority to take action against a healthcare worker for a variety of reasons, including unprofessional conduct, practicing without a license, and unsafe care.
Under the new law, patients who file complaints will have the opportunity to submit an impact statement detailing how they were affected by the doctor’s or healthcare worker’s conduct. The agency handling the complaint must respond promptly to any inquiries regarding the status of the case. The person who filed the complaint and the person who is the subject of the complaint may request a complete copy of the file on the matter with some exceptions of confidential information.
Once a complaint has been reviewed, the disciplining body must inform the person who filed it of the results of its evaluation. If the complaint is settled before an impact statement has been filed, the patient must be given the chance to submit one and make a request for reconsideration. The doctor or healthcare worker will be allowed to respond to the amended complaint. Once the matter has been fully considered, the agency must issue a written report that provides an explanation for its decision.
Michael McCauley – 415-431-6747, ext 126, mccami@consumer.org