Licensed physicians have an obligation to conduct themselves professionally and in the best interest of their patients. The state medical board has the responsibility to investigate all complaints made against a doctor and take disciplinary action if necessary.
There are certain things that constitute unprofessional conduct, and not all of them are patient-related. Anyone facing an investigation should take the accusation seriously, as the associated penalties may affect their professional license.
Examples of unprofessional conduct
The Federation of State Medical Boards discusses what the state board may consider to be unprofessional or incompetent behavior. Conduct that may affect patient care includes:
- Sexual misconduct
- Patient neglect
- Inappropriate prescribing of medication
- Not meeting the professional standard of care
- Insufficient recordkeeping
- Drug and alcohol abuse
A physician may also face disciplinary action if convicted of a felony, for lying on the license application, for committing fraud or for failing to fulfill continuing education requirements.
Reporting obligations of physicians
The Pennsylvania Department of State discusses that physicians have an obligation to report any complaints, arrests or violations to the board within 60 days of the occurrence. This includes complaints from another jurisdiction, controlled substance violations or convictions and clinical care events resulting in unexpected injury or death of a patient.
Potential disciplinary actions
After conducting an investigation, the state board may apply disciplinary action. For more minor issues, a fine or non-punitive action may be appropriate. The board may also require the physician to complete certain conditions to prevent further actions. The physician may just receive a warning letter or have to undergo probation for a period of time.
More serious issues may result in penalties regarding the physician’s license to practice medicine. There may be a license suspension, denial, revocation or restriction.