Total complaints lodged against physicians continued their steady descent in fiscal year 2014, an indicator that some say is proof that the Texas Medical Board is improving at avoiding spending time on frivolous claims.
The board last week released its annual stats for this year, opening 1,808 out of 6,847 and completing 1,877. Some of those may have been opened in 2013 and wrapped this year.
“The board has been used as a safe haven for complaints like, ‘I don’t like the way he talked to me’ or ‘the nurse was rude to me,’” says Ryan Wozny, a shareholder at Dallas defense firm Chamblee, Ryan, Kershaw & Anderson. “What the board has been doing is weeding those out to say, ‘that’s not our function, that’s not our job, we’re not the manners police.’”
Chamblee-Ryan took on between 5 percent and 7 percent of all medical board complaints filed in 2014. Wozny said the numbers confirmed what he’s seen in the cases brought to their Medical District-area office: Doctors are receiving faster turnarounds from Austin, especially in cases that get filed but are outside the board’s jurisdiction. Wozny says they’re focusing their time more on cases that deserve being looked into.
“It’s not that they’re letting people off the hook,” he says, “it’s that they’re focusing on those that require their attention.”
The drop is steep: Since 2011, the cases received have declined by nearly 1,300: 8,182 then, 6,847 now. The board opened about 300 fewer—1,808 today compared to 2,122 in 2011—and declined to file close to 500 more, 2,844 in 2014 compared to 2,390 in 2011. Dismissal notices are commonly received within a week compared to a month or longer in the past, Wozny said.
“The numbers are now substantiating what our subjective opinion had been over the last two years,” he added. “Not only are they weeding out the baseless complaints but they’re doing it in a much more efficient manner.”