Thursday, December 23, 2010

Early intervention for 'impaired' health professionals

In case you missed it, here's a link to an article about the new Texas Physician Health Program:

In short, it's a nondisciplinary and confidential program designed to encourage health professionals to seek early assistance with drug or alcohol-related problems or mental or physical conditions that present a potentially dangerous
limitation or inability to practice medicine with reasonable skill and safety.

It is available to physicians, physician assistants and other health professionals licensed by the Texas Medical Board or those who have applied for Texas licenses.

If you think a colleague needs help, or you need help yourself, call 512.305.7462.

When your patient dies ...

Physicians are privileged to bear witness to some of the most important events in life -- including death.

If you work in a specialty in which you are EVER called upon to sign a death certificate, you probably are aware of the Texas law requiring that such certificates be completed electronically. To prepare for such an event, you need to register with the Texas Department of State Health Services AHEAD OF TIME. Once the death has occurred it's too late!

More than 100 physicians found themselves facing disciplinary action from the Texas Medical Board earlier this year for failing to comply with the law. It came to our attention that many doctors were unaware of the lag time between online registration and accessing the system; others had difficulty with the health department's registration process itself.

As a result, the Board dismissed pending disciplinary actions, refunded fines and has extended the grace period for registration through the end of the upcoming Legislative session.

It's important to note that electronic death certification is the way of the future -- the health department adopted this system because it is more secure than paper. Therefore, doctors can take advantage of this new grace period to sign up and work through any glitches with DSHS.

Here's the link again: as well as an email for questions or problems:

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Complaints: Anonymous vs. confidential

In FY ’09, the TMB received nearly 7,000 complaints. Here's a breakdown, by source: 1% insurance companies, 1% law enforcement, 2% gov’t agencies, 2% anonymous, 2% consumers, 9% health professionals, 13% TMB (from news articles etc), 27% family of patient, 43% patients.

There is an important distinction between “confidential” and “anonymous” when describing complaints received by TMB. TMB receives very few complaints that are truly anonymous –an estimated 2% to 3% per year.

The Medical Practice Act does require, however, that all information pertaining to the investigation of a complaint be *confidential*. This is interpreted to mean that the information cannot be shared with any entity outside the TMB.

When a complaint has reached the stage where the agency sets a disciplinary hearing on the issue, the complainant is asked if he/she would like to waive the confidentiality of their identity and if they do, their identity is shared with both the licensee and the board panel that presides over the disciplinary hearing.