Duty to report: What does it mean for you?

What is a “duty to report” law? A “duty to report” law requires all medical providers for the living and deceased – including mortuary workers and veterinarians – must report information to their board that covers information on themselves such as convictions, pending criminal investigations, DUI and any malpractice settlements, including those reached out of court. In addition it requires these same providers to report any information they may have on other providers where a suspicion of unprofessional conduct is known. There must be compelling circumstances to drive the report.

Who has to follow this rule? Many states have a duty to report law. In Oregon, all medical providers are required to follow ORS Chapter 676 reporting obligations, defined as:

ORS 676.150 Duty to report prohibited or unprofessional conduct, arrests and convictions; investigation, confidentiality; immunity from liability.

What are some examples? The following are two scenarios that could prompt a provider to think about making a report to a licensing board.

Scenario 1: You are chiropractor with a new patient – “Mrs. Smith”. Mrs. Smith reports to you an incident where another doctor was palpating her low back and got too close to her buttocks without warning her about what he was going to be doing. The patient felt like the treatment ‘wasn’t right’. She didn’t continue seeing that doctor because the lack of communication before touching made them uncomfortable. Mrs. Smith explained that the treatments helped her pain, but the doctor moved too fast and didn’t explain procedures before touching her.

Is this a duty to report situation? No, probably not. It is more likely a problem of poor communication between doctor and patient. This example is not meant to minimize the patient’s discomfort or invalidate their feelings, however without clear malicious intent, it’s unlikely this would rise to the level of a sexual misconduct or unprofessional misconduct claim.

Scenario 2: You have a new patient scheduled for a 2 pm appointment. At the appointment time, your new patient accidentally shows up at a chiropractic office across the street from yours. The patient’s mother had given her son (the new patient) paperwork to fill out and he hands that to the receptionist. The receptionist thanks the young man for the paperwork – while seeing that it clearly has another office address and other identifiers on it. She then hands him a set of their new patient intake to fill out. He objects and notes that he just gave her the paperwork. The receptionist indicates that the doctor needs a second set done. The new patient dutifully begins filling it out. At this point, he’s 15 minutes late for his appointment with you. Your receptionist calls the mother to see why the son hasn’t shown up. She tells your receptionist that he left in plenty of time and gives your office the son’s cell number. When he answers and says he’s in the office it’s then discovered by both the new patient and your office that the office across the street has ‘hijacked a patient’. The doctor at the incorrect office is with the new patient as he’s speaking on the phone. The doctor tells the patient “You don’t have to go to another office, since you’ve never seen that doctor and you’re already here and I’m ready to begin treatment.” The patient is upset that he’s now late and was made to fill out extra forms. He leaves and arrives late to the correct office, yours.”

Is this a duty to report situation? Yes, it is. This is an example of unprofessional conduct by the chiropractor at the incorrect office. The doctor of origin is within his/her rights to file a complaint to the licensing board, even though most of the conversation between the patient, receptionist, and wrong chiropractor were related secondhand.