Ariz. - The Arizona Medical Board finished its longest and busiest meeting in recent times Friday, June 10, 2005, as it continues to work through a backlog of cases. During its three-day session, Board Members considered 85 cases involving 89 physicians.
The Board – chaired by Tim B. Hunter, M.D. – has resolved more than 200 cases since April. Executive Director Timothy C. Miller says the case backlog is now down to 933 from more than 13-hundred when he joined the Board last December.
Miller said, “Board staff will continue to address the remaining complaints while a new system is implemented.” The new process, according to Miller, will include “more and better trained investigators, a new case management system, and a new method for investigating complaints that simplifies the process and eliminates redundancy.”
Among the cases at its June meeting, the Board accepted the recommendations of an Administrative Law Judge to revoke the license of one doctor and to issue a Letter of Reprimand for another. It also approved proposed Consent Agreements calling for a Decree of Censure and two Letters of Reprimand. The Board asked staff to prepare findings of fact, conclusions of law for Letters of Reprimand in three cases.
In other action, the Board called on staff to draw up 32 non-disciplinary Advisory Letters. It dismissed cases against 15 doctors and denied the appeals of 19 cases dismissed by the Executive Director.
In his Executive Director‘s report to the Board, Miller pointed out the number of cases taking longer than 180 days to investigate and submit to the Board for its consideration had risen from 536 to 545. “The Board is currently working through older cases that had been necessarily delayed to address the more serious complaints to public safety,” Miller said. “It is anticipated that the average time to resolve these older complaints will increase until the agency can successfully complete the respective investigations.”
Also, during the initial part of the plan to correct the backlog, the Board focused on those cases that posed a significant threat to the public‘s safety. “Some of these cases were new cases so they reduced the average,” Miller explained. “Now we are working on the oldest cases. And as a result, we expect a temporary increase in the average until these cans can be investigated and resolved.”
Miller said the Board is taking steps to address the number of cases and the length of investigations, but the process is taking time. In addition to process improvement, the Board continues to increase the number of investigators. In particular, the Board‘s staffing resources for investigations currently represents 50% of all full-time staff. As compared to the previous 18% ratio. This new allocation will ultimately allow for more thorough investigations and timely resolutions to patient complaints.
The new investigators are working with a modified investigation process. “Although not ideal,” Miller said, “it will allow us to quickly, adequately and expeditiously complete the investigations.” The streamlining includes changing forms to reduce time and redundancy.
The Arizona Medical Board regulates the medical practices of more than 17,000 physicians. It is composed of eight physicians and four public members, including a registered nurse. All are appointed by the governor, subject to confirmation by the Arizona State Senate.