Learning you are the subject of a complaint can be upsetting, but it is more common than many licensed medical professionals realize. The Medical Board of California receives more than 8,000 complaints every year, all of which go through a layered review process.

For a license holder facing a complaint, this is troubling. Will you get a chance to tell your side of the story? And what will the process entail?

The initial steps

Complaints to the Medical Board initially go to the Central Complaint Unit, which does a preliminary review of the circumstances. This includes obtaining records related to the complainant.

During this time, the board’s staff will also reach out to the accused licensee, offering them an opportunity to respond. You won’t have to do so blindly, as the board will provide a summary of the allegations.

A relevant, licensed expert can also be brought in to see if the standard of care was followed.

If the staff does not find a violation, or determines it was a minor slip-up regarding the laws of the profession, it could be resolved through mediation, an administrative citation or a simple closing of the case.

If the authoritative body believes the complaint requires a closer look, a full investigation will commence.

A full investigation

If a complaint has not yet been resolved, it is referred to a Department of Consumer Affairs field office for a full investigation. Generally, cases that could result in disciplinary action or involve serious accusations reach this step.

An investigator will take over, speaking with the complainant and other relevant parties while gathering additional information. That can include obtaining medical records, writing subpoenas, executing search warrants, conducting undercover operations and doing physical inspections. A medical expert will often be used to check for “standard of care” issues.

The investigator will also speak with the license holder in question.

It is at this point the findings will determine whether the case is closed with little to no consequences, or if the complaint will be sent to the Office of the Attorney General for possible administrative or criminal proceedings.

This process can be quite unsettling for the person being investigated. If there is an unfavorable finding, you could lose your license – and your livelihood. While the process does give you an opportunity to tell your version of events, the board and investigators are not on your side.

It is paramount you take those opportunities to present the strongest case possible.