So you’ve heard through the grapevine that disciplinary action has been taken against your doctor. How can you learn the outcome? What if you want to file a complaint against a doctor? How can you access your medical records? The New Jersey State Board of Medical Examiners has compiled a helpful set of answers to these and other questions you might have about your doctor.
· How can I find out more information about my doctor?
You can learn more information about a doctor licensed in the State of New Jersey at the New Jersey Healthcare Profile (also known as the Physician Profile) by accessing www.njdoctorlist.com. At this web site, you can learn more about a physician’s education, board certifications, where the physician has hospital privileges, the insurance which he/she accepts, whether any disciplinary action for the last ten years has been taken by the Board, whether any malpractice payments have been made out on the licensee’s behalf and whether he/she has been disciplined by a health care facility.
· I heard there was some discipline taken against my doctor. How can I get more information if that happened or not?
Any disciplinary action taken against a licensee by the Board for the last ten years can be found on the New Jersey Healthcare Profile at www.njdoctorlist.com. Additional disciplinary information can be obtained by calling (609) 826-7100 or writing to the Board office at P.O. Box 183, Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0183.
· How do I file a complaint against a doctor?
From this web site, by clicking on the online consumer complaint form, you can file your complaint electronically.
If you prefer to do it by hard copy, you can print out the complaint form available on this site and send it to the Board of Medical Examiners, P.O. Box 183, Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0183.
· Will my doctor find out that I filed a complaint?
Generally, yes. During the Board’s investigation, your complaint will be sent to the physician and he/she will be asked to respond to your allegations. If ther are specific reasons why you do not want the doctor to see your complaint or know of your identify, please explain in complaint.
· I have not heard anything about the complaint I submitted sixty days ago. What is the status?
You can call Christina Smith at (609) 826-7134 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org who can assist you in learning more about the status of your complaint.
· Do I have a right to my medical records?
In most instances, the patient has a right to receive a copy of his or her medical records, not the original. Although most patients assume that the records belong to them, the Board requires that the physician to maintain the original to ensure that the patient’s medical history is available to any subsequent treating physician or health care provider. Copies may be given to the patient, another doctor, your attorney, your insurance company or another family member if the patient expressly authorizes it. If a patient is deceased, the duly appointed executor or administrator of the estate may obtain copies also. Medical records cannot be released to a spouse, family member (except in the case of a child), attorney or any other person unless the patient gives his/her express consent to release them to that specific person.
· Can a doctor charge me for my medical records?
The Doctor may charge the patient to copy the records, which cannot be greater than $1.00 per page or $100.00 for the entire record, whichever is less. If the record is less than 10 pages, the doctor may charge $10 . A "service fee" may not be charged apart from these amounts. Charges for copies of x-rays and other documents which cannot be reproduced by ordinary photocopying machines are to be charged at the actual costs to reproduce them.
The Doctor has 30 days after he/she receives a written request from the patient, another doctor, an attorney, insurance company, or another family member if the patient expressly authorizes it. If the patient had provided a set of records from the patients previous Doctor, the patient has a right to have these included as part of the entire medical record. Physicians may not refuse to release a copy of a patient’s medical record if they are needed for on going treatment if the patient owes money for the medical services the physician provided. The physician, however, can hold the record until the patient pays for the costs to reproduce the record, providing the record is not required for on going medical care.
· How long must a doctor keep my medical records?
A doctor has to keep a patient’s medical records for seven years. After that, the physician can destroy them. There is no requirement in the law that requires the physician to notify a patient prior to destroying the records. It is recommended that you request a copy of your medical records when you are changing physicians.
· Can my doctor tell me that he/she does not want to see me anymore as a patient?
As long as you are not being treated under circumstances where your life or health may be threatened or compromised unless timely medical care is given, the doctor may terminate the relationship. The doctor must notify the patient, in writing, that he/she will no longer provide care as a date certain, which cannot be less than thirty days prior to the termination date. This letter must be sent by certified mail, return receipt requested. The doctor, however, is obligated to provide all necessary emergency care and services, including providing necessary prescriptions, until the date of termination. If requested by the patient, the doctor must make reasonable efforts to assist the patient in finding another provider and the transfer of the medical records.
· Must my doctor provide me a chaperone during an examination?
In an office setting, a doctor is required to provide notice to the patient that he/she has a right to a chaperone present whenever a breast and pelvic examination of females or during genitalia and rectal examinations of both male and females. If the proposed chaperone is not acceptable to the patient, the patient may refuse and the doctor is not obligated to provide further care. Also, if the doctor desires to have a chaperone present and the patient refuses, the doctor is not obligated to provide further treatment. If care is not provided, the doctor, however, must discuss with the patient the risks of not receiving further care.
· I was unhappy with the care that I received at the hospital, can I complain to the Board?
The Board only has jurisdiction over the doctors. If you believe the care provided by a doctor in a hospital was improper, you can file a complaint as indicated above. If you have a complaint about the care provided within the hospital, you should contact the Department of Health and Senior Services, Complaint section at (800) 792-9770.
· How do I find out if a medical facility is licensed?
The Department of Health and Senior Services licenses many types of healthcare facilities. You may search their database here: http://www.state.nj.us/health/healthfacilities/search/ac.shtml –NJ State Board of Medical Examiners