Filing Complaints Against Health Care Professionals

When to File a Complaint

The Tennessee Department of Health has the authority for various licensing Health Related Boards whose responsibilities are to protect the public interest. This is accomplished through the enforcement of the particular statutes of each Health Related Board, which examines, licenses, and oversees the practice of the individual licensees. You have the right to file a complaint against a licensed health care professional when you believe they have violated the practice act or the rules of their profession. To review the practice act/rules for a particular profession, click here

Due to the nature of complaints and complex legal and medical issues that are involved, your patience, cooperation and understanding is appreciated.

Board Responsibility

The Department of Health has the authority for various licensing boards whose responsibilities are to protect the public interest. This is accomplished through enforcement of the particular Practice Act of each board, which examines, licenses, and oversees the practice of the licensees. The licensing boards oversee individual practitioners and in some instances regulate educational programs.

The responsible board evaluates the credentials and qualifications of each practitioner. After practitioners become licensed, the Board will review any complaint received that may put the professional behavior and/or performance of the practitioner in question. Such complaints may suggest a violation of the Practice Act. Complaints are received from various sources, i.e. the general public, insurance companies, hospitals and other health care facilities, health professionals and the news media. If you feel that a practitioner has failed to live up to his/her professional responsibilities, the Health Related Boards want to hear from you.

While a board cannot assist with civil or criminal matters and does not represent individuals, the Tennessee Practice Acts allow the licensing boards to act on behalf of the people of Tennessee at large. When a board determines that disciplinary action against a practitioner is necessary, the action focuses on prevention of further problems with the practitioner and the protection of future patients. In essence, a board has the power to control a practitioner’s ability to practice in the future in the state of Tennessee, but cannot impute criminal penalties. Any person seeking to recover fees or monetary remedies for injuries should consult a private attorney regarding those matters. The State of Tennessee has no jurisdiction over these types of situations.

Frequently Asked Questions for complainants:

No. If you file a complaint online, you will receive a copy of your complaint form automatically via email. If you sent in a paper complaint or any supplemental documents, we recommend that you make a copy for your records. All materials received become the property of the State of Tennessee and cannot be returned to you.

Yes. You may file a complaint without revealing your identity. However, make sure to provide enough information in the Allegations Report to allow for an adequate review of the issues, including an investigation, if an investigation is required. PLEASE NOTE: The Office of Investigations will not be able to provide status reports for Allegations Reports that are filed anonymously.

All complaints received within the Office of Investigations are reviewed within three (3) business days. The next step is review by the board’s consultant and attorneys for the board. The complaint review/investigation process can take several months depending on the nature and complexity of the allegations.

No. The decision is final. PLEASE NOTE: All Allegations Reports are taken very seriously and are reviewed by a competent professional licensed in the relevant field and an attorney working on behalf of the relevant licensure board. To ensure a thorough review, please provide all information and details along with your Allegations Report. Unless the facts contained in Allegations Report have changed, the file will not be reconsidered.

If additional information other than what you provided in your Allegations Report form is needed, you may be contacted by office staff or an investigator. You will be provided with a complaint number when you file your complaint and will be contacted in writing when your complaint has reached a disposition.

Your name, as having filed the complaint, will be not be revealed to the practitioner. Pursuant to T.C.A. §63-1-117, the identity of the complainant is confidential and will not be disclosed. Therefore, staff will neither confirm nor deny the identity of the complainant. However, if your medical record is requested from the practitioner as a part of the investigation, the practitioner may draw an inference as to the identity of the complainant.

No. After the Allegations Report is filed with the State, the matter becomes part of a legal process which is made confidential under state law. Therefore, the investigative findings are confidential and cannot be disclosed.

No. The health professional licensure boards have the authority to control a practitioner’s ability to practice in the future. Any person seeking to receive refunds or monetary remedies for injuries related to the allegations contained in the Allegations Report should consult a private attorney as soon as possible.

We encourage the use of the Allegations Report form to ensure that all required information is collected, including your signature and a completed/signed Patient Release Form. Under certain circumstances, telephone complaints may be taken. Note that you will not receive a copy of your complaint when taken over the phone.

Each complaint is reviewed by a clinical consultant licensed in that profession and approved by the Board to review the complaint and a staff attorney who is assigned by the Department of Health. The consultant and attorney review the Allegations Report and any supplemental documents you have submitted. If additional information is necessary to determine if a violation has occurred and can be proven, they will request a field investigation. The investigator may contact you to obtain any additional information requested by the consultant and/or attorney. If you need legal advice, you need to seek the advice of a private attorney. The attorneys assigned to work on behalf of the health related boards represent the interests of the State and the boards to protect citizens from harm or potential for harm at the hands of a practitioner who may have caused you harm. They do not represent your personal interests.

Frequently Asked Questions for healthcare professionals

Pursuant to T.C.A. §63-1-117, the identity of the complainant is confidential and cannot be disclosed. Complaints can be filed by patients, family members, peers, facilities, law enforcement, pharmacists, and by individuals who request to remain anonymous. (Likewise, complaint information about a practitioner is confidential. If a complaint leads to formal discipline by the professional licensure board, then information against a practitioner will no longer be confidential.)

No. The complaint, usually filed using an Allegations Report form available on the Board’s web site, contains information made confidential under T.C.A. §63-1-117 and cannot be disclosed. The investigation report is also confidential and the same confidentiality statute attaches. However, when the investigation findings are returned to the Office and a review has been held, you will receive a written notification of the outcome and, if appropriate, guidance on how to improve your practice. If the investigation findings rise to the level that requires the filing of formal charges against you, written notice and an opportunity for a hearing will be provided to you.

Each complaint will be reviewed by a consultant who is licensed and in good standing with the relevant licensure board a staff attorney assigned by the Department of Health. Together, the reviewers evaluate if a potential violation of a statute and/or rule governing your profession exists, based on the allegations provided. If a potential violation is identified, the file is forwarded to a field investigator for collection of witness statements and documentation to prove or disprove the allegations. Upon completion, the investigative file is again reviewed to analyze the statements and documentation to determine if, and which, statutes and/or rules have been violated

The investigator will present an identification badge for your inspection. If additional verification is needed, call the office at 800-852-2187 or 615-532-3421 for verbal verification.

No. Complaint information and the identity of both the complainant and the practitioner against whom the complaint has been filed are confidential by statute. Staff processing these confidential documents has been trained to employ the strictest measures to ensure that confidentiality is maintained. Therefore, only the practitioner will be given information related to the complaint, including complaint status, in order to maintain strict adherence to the confidentiality requirements.

As the named practitioner, you will normally be asked to participate in an interview, if an investigation has been requested by the review team. The reason for the interview is to allow you the opportunity to provide an explanation with regard to your decisions, actions and/or behaviors related to the issue(s) under investigation. Issues under investigation may range from malpractice and/or negligence in the treatment of patient(s) to situational behaviors, impairment, drug diversions, abuse and neglect, supervisory responsibilities, or prescribing.

After the Allegations Report is filed with the State, the matter becomes part of a legal process. The Board’s Consultant and the assigned attorney with the Department of Health will be ascertaining whether or not the collected evidence (e.g. witness statements, medical records, business records) from the investigation support a finding of one or more statutory or rule violations. If no violation is found, you will be notified in writing. If a violation is found, the nature, severity, and the position of the board in disciplining like and/or similar violations will be considered in determining whether an informal letter of correction will be issued by the Board’s Consultant, or whether the file will be referred to the legal office for consideration of formal disciplinary charges.

If the complaint filed against you is closed with no violation and/or a violation which does not rise to the level of formal disciplinary action, written notification will be issued to you in the form of either a letter signed by a staff member from the Office of Investigations or a letter of correction (i.e. letter of concern or letter of warning) signed by the Board’s Consultant. If your complaint file is referred to the legal office, you will receive communication from the attorney who has been assigned to your file.

Yes. Formal disciplinary action, which can only be taken by your licensure board after notice and an opportunity for a hearing, will become a part of your disciplinary history and your licensure record indefinitely. The discipline will stay on your licensure record, which is a publicly available document.

The statute allows for an appeal of formal disciplinary actions within a fixed amount of time in accordance with statutory mandates. Informal letters of correction (i.e. letter of concern and/or letter of warning) are not considered discipline and are not made part of the licensure file; therefore, they are not matters subject to appeal. NOTE: Complaint history, which includes informal letters of correction, is retained separate from licensure file documentation and is not subject to a public records request, pursuant to T.C.A. §63-1-117. The Department views this process as confidential and takes steps to ensure that confidentiality is maintained at all phases, having taken action to successfully defend requests for access to complaint documentation when appropriate.