Complaint | Investigation Process

Washington State Department of Health | WSDH | Credentials and Licensing | The Investigation and Report Process for Health Care Professionals in Washington | A Lawyer’s Perspective

"Seattle physician with patient 1999" by Seattle Municipal Archives from Seattle, WA - Doctors with patient, 1999. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

“Seattle physician with patient 1999” by Seattle Municipal Archives from Seattle, WA – Doctors with patient, 1999. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

In the State of Washington, the Washington Department of Health and the various commission and boards handle reports about health care providers. Between 2009-2011, Health Systems Quality Assurance Division of the Department of health handled 17,600 complaints. The Uniform Disciplinary Act administers the legal process that governs how this process is handled. The Uniform Disciplinary Act balances public safety, due process and fairness for credential holders. From an attorney’s perspective, the timelines in the Uniform Disciplinary Act should create rough expectations for health care professionals who are facing a report, investigation or complaint. To discuss your particular circumstances, contact our office directly for a consultation.

In general, the lawyers | attorneys in our office are of the opinion there are two approaches to handling these kinds of matters:

  • Grab the bull by the horns. Use legal counsel to help you organize and prioritize relevant defense or mitigation information, investigate and defend yourself, prepare for investigation, learn what rules apply and what conduct and behavior is appropriate, engage appropriate professionals, start appropriate evaluations, begin appropriate treatment and educate yourself or begin the process of preparing to fight tooth and nail. Take affirmative steps so you and your attorney can get the best results possible by taking full advantage of the advice and counsel of a knowledgeable team of lawyers covered by attorney | client privilege.
  • Wait and see. There is no purpose in being proactive on the facts or circumstances. Doing so serves no purpose. Educate yourself but take no action and wait to see what happens.

Which approach best serves a client depends on the circumstances, facts and situation but for reasons other than self-serving, we think the “grab the bull by the horns” approach is almost always the best. Fundamentally, we believe problems do not fix themselves and if you want a result, it never hurts to arrange things to increase the chances of achieving it … our office finds success in part because of our proactive stance on cases. Since any formal report can affect a professional license, it is important to take a long-term view on investing in legal assistance and administrative law lawyers in these kinds of situations.  The fact that we also understand criminal and civil law doesn’t hurt.

The Rough Timeline of the Reporting Process

A rough investigation timeline is as follows:

The department, commission or board receives a report about a particular health care professional or credential holder. The agency must determine whether the report warrants an investigation based on the conduct, acts, conditions or the credential holders ability to practice with reasonable skill or safety.

If an assessor of a report finds a problem, it becomes a complaint and the agency will pursue further investigation.

  • The basic period for investigating a complaint is 170 days. Obviously, some complaints will take longer, some shorter but at the 170 day mark, management steps in to assure things are being handled timely and appropriately. This is called “Enhanced Management Oversight” and is basically there to make sure the “ball” keeps rolling.

After an investigation is completed, the Department must decide what to do. This is called case disposition. They will either issue a Statement of Charges on a complaint and start a formal hearing process, take informal action, or the Department, board or commission may chose to close the complaint.

If a matter goes by way of an informal action, a Statement of Allegations will be issued.

  • Clients have 28 days to file a formal response to the Statement of Allegations and Stipulation to Informal Disposition or it may be determined that the Stipulation to Informal Disposition is rejected and the matter will be sent back to the Case Disposition stage.

If things go to adjudication, the basic time restrictions and procedures surrounding a Complaints and Statement of Charges apply. The results of these actions get posted on the Health Systems Quality Assurance System and can have a profound effect on your future employment and life. If you are facing an administrative action against your professional health care license, investing in an attorney and firm to fight for you is often a wise long term decision.

This firm of lawyers is a unique blend of litigation skills, experience, knowledge and temperament. Whether we are in the role of legal counsel, ambassador, negotiator, or litigator, we have years of experience resolving complex situations with our clients’ best interests in mind. Choosing incompetent, lazy or ineffective counsel can make your legal journey a long and difficult road. This firm is founded on a service, a blue-collar work ethic and an intense dislike of losing. Call 206-708-7852 to set up an appointment to discuss your situation.

Robert Rhodes

With a successful background in law, courtrooms, wrestling, rugby and jujitsu, Robert Rhodes’s nature is well-suited for argument and litigation. Mr. Rhodes knows how to talk clearly and directly to his clients, adversaries and to the Court. His common sense, straight talk and experience put his clients immediately at ease. Mr. Rhodes does not do anything half way and you will sense this when you meet him. Read more >>