1. UNDERSTAND THE BEHAVIOR
When made aware of questionable behavior of a colleague, have a good understanding of the facts from a reliable source, then determine if there are applicable professional standards.
2. BE CAREFUL WHAT INFORMATION IS USED
Unless you are a treating physician or on a formal peer review committee, do not review patient information, even if accessible to you.
3. DO NOT RUSH TO JUDGMENT
Consider all the facts in the proper context as well as whether the behavior forms a pattern. Physicians tend to be very critical of other physicians. Remember that all physicians are human.
4. CONSULT A PHYSICIAN PEER
Confidentially raising the issue with a trusted peer in order to get another opinion may allow you additional insight. Be discreet (perhaps using hypotheticals) as your aim is to solve a problem and not to spread rumors.
5. TALK TO THE PHYSICIAN INVOLVED
Discussing the issue with the individual physician may help the physician realize that the questionable behavior is occurring. It also may clear up factual misunderstandings.
6. REMIND THE PHYSICIAN OF THE RISKS
Such risks include a public lawsuit by the patient or an ethics complaint before a state medical board. But even if the physician is never caught, there is still harm to the patient, the profession, and that physician’s own conscience.
7. DETERMINE IF OUTSIDE HELP IS AVAILABLE
Check the Texas Medical Association’s hotline (1-800-880-1640), the Texas Medical Board (www.tmb.state.tx.us), or a local county medical society.
8. DETERMINE IF OUTSIDE REPORTING IS NECESSARY
If the behavior makes the physician a continuing threat to public welfare, a physician is required to report it to the Texas Medical Board. Otherwise, a physician may report to the Texas Medical Board, the Texas Medical Association, or to a hospital ethics or peer review committee, as long as the report is truthful.
9. BEFORE YOU ACT, CHECK YOURSELF
If your goal is to help a colleague, prevent patient harm, and is consistent with your conscience and the goals of your profession, you may have legitimate motivations. But be careful if this physician is an economic competitor or you do not personally like this physician. In that case, get advice from someone who doesn’t have these biases.
10. AIM FOR REHABILITATION
Physicians save lives on a daily basis but there are serious pressures unique to the profession. In cases of misjudgment (especially isolated ones), a physician needs a path back to the profession.