If the Medical Commission determines that a complaint merits investigation, and is within its jurisdiction, the Medical Commission authorizes an investigation into the allegations. Investigators are neutral unbiased fact gatherers. The Medical Commission considers the entire investigative file for review and decision.
The Medical Commission currently employs a Director of Investigations, and full-time Health Care Investigators to conduct approximately 800 investigations a year from offices in Tumwater and Spokane. The Medical Commission receives approximately 1,800 complaints per year from multiple sources to include: patients, families, friends, mandatory licensee and facility reports, pharmacy reports, malpractice payments, out of state discipline and other health care providers to name a few. Each complaint is assigned a case number and reviewed by a panel of commissioners at a weekly complaint assessment meeting. Complaints are either authorized for investigation or closed if they do not allege a violation of the law or the standard of care.
Investigators also conduct compliance practice reviews of the physicians and physician assistants currently under a Disciplinary Order or a Stipulation to Informal Disposition. Compliance practice reviews audit the physician’s or physician assistant’s practice to gather information which the commission uses to evaluate compliance with their order or stipulation.
Complaints authorized for investigation are assigned to an investigator based on the nature of the complaint, the location of the event, and investigator caseloads. The Medical Commission has clinically trained investigators who are assigned the more complex standard of care investigations and compliance reviews. Clinical training, experience and knowledge are vital to the investigative process in many of the complex standard of care cases.
Investigators review each assigned complaint, review the Medical Commission’s authorization for any specific direction and review the physician’s or physician assistant’s (respondent) licensing and training history. The investigator gathers medical records, interviews the respondent, complainants, witnesses, and gathers any additional information or evidence relevant to the allegation. All information gathered is organized in a report and forwarded to the Medical Commission. During the investigation, investigators coordinate closely with staff attorneys and focus on information needed to evaluate the complaint and the medical care. Staff attorneys also provide legal guidance throughout the process.
The role of an investigator is to objectively gather and provide the Medical Commission all the relevant information on which the Commission can base an informed decision. The investigator is neither the investigator for the complainant or an advocate for the respondent. Investigators encourage complainants and respondents to provide any information they feel may be relevant to the allegation or any information which may help the Commissioners as they evaluate the case.