A new bill expected to reach the Texas Senate floor during the 2015 legislative session would legally obligate non-physicians to report physician misconduct to the Texas Medical Board. If passed, the new legislation would require health care entities, such as hospitals and physician groups, to report to the Board information and allegations concerning potential wrongdoing. The Board would treat each notification as if a complaint had been filed against the doctor. The proposed bill could dramatically increase the number of Board investigations by conscripting health care entities to report previously undisclosed medical outcomes and conduct. The new statute would require health care entities to provide written notification to the Board upon learning of information or allegations concerning a physician in any of the following scenarios:
- a patient’s unanticipated loss of life or major life function;
- impairment of ability to practice by substance abuse or physical or mental illness;
- boundary violations involving a patient or patient’s family; or
- a pattern of repeated failures to meet the acceptable standard of care.
Health care entities must notify the Board within seven days after receiving such information or allegations and designate a chief corporate officer responsible for ensuring compliance. Failure to comply would potentially subject both the entity and the designated officer to administrative penalties, as well as disciplinary action by applicable regulatory authorities, with whom the statute expressly permits the Board to conduct joint investigations to determine the whether or not a violation has occurred.
The Texas Legislature’s plan obligates health care entities to serve as whistle blowers, monitoring and reporting to the Board mere allegations of certain physician misconduct or adverse medical outcomes. The statute would likely significantly increase the number of Board complaints and the frequency of disciplinary action taken against physicians, as well as the associated expense to professional liability insurers. Forcing health care entities to participate in physician disciplinary proceedings could also complicate business relations and negotiations between doctors and the health care institutions where they practice.
Serpe Andrews advises healthcare institutions on legal issues and represents physicians at the Texas Medical Board. We will continue to monitor the development of this bill and provide updates regarding all significant developments.