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Frequently Asked Questions for Consumers

  1. What is the State Board of Medical Examiners?
  2. What is the structure of the Medical Board?
  3. How does the Board protect the public in the licensing process?
  4. How does the Board regulate its licensees?
  5. How can I find out more information about my doctor?
  6. I heard there was some discipline taken against my doctor. How can I get more information if that happened or not?
  7. What does D.O. stand for? Is he/she qualified as a medical doctor?
  8. How do I file a complaint against a doctor?
  9. How long will the investigation take?
  10. Will my doctor find out that I filed a complaint?
  11. I have not heard anything about the complaint I submitted sixty days ago. What is the status?
  12. Do I have a right to my medical records?
  13. Can a doctor charge me for my medical records?
  14. How long must a doctor keep my medical records?
  15. Can my doctor tell me that he/she does not want to see me anymore as a patient?
  16. Must my doctor provide me a chaperone during an examination?
  17. I was unhappy with the care that I received at the hospital, can I complain to the Board?
  18. Is the State Board of Medical Examiners responsible for autopsy reports?
  19. Can you give me a physician referral?
  20. How do I find out if a medical facility is licensed?
  1. What is the State Board of Medical Examiners?
    The New Jersey State Board of Medical Examiners’ primary responsibility and obligation is to protect the citizens of New Jersey through proper licensing and regulation of physicians and some other health care professionals. To protect the public from the unprofessional practice of medicine, the state must provide laws and regulations that outline the practice of medicine and it is the responsibility of the Medical Board to regulate that practice through enforcement of the Medical Practice Act.
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  2. What is the structure of the Medical Board?
    Board membership is composed of volunteers, appointed by the Governor, who are charged with upholding the Medical Practice Act. It is composed of twenty-one members: twelve graduates of medicine or osteopathic medicine (M.D. or D.O.), one podiatrist, one physician assistant, one certified nurse midwife, one licensed bio-analytical laboratory director, a designee from the Department of Health and Senior Services, a designee from the Executive Branch and three public members.
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  3. How does the Board protect the public in the licensing process?
    Through the licensing process, the Board ensures that applicants receive the appropriate education and training prior to practicing medicine in the State of New Jersey. All applicants must provide information about their prior education, work experience and training. In addition, all applicants must pass a series of difficult examinations which measure the applicant’s ability to use his/her knowledge in a safe and effective manner. Also, applicants are asked a series of questions that relate to their moral character, such as, arrests and convictions. Questions are also asked about any medical condition or use of drugs which may impair an applicant’s ability to practice with reasonable skill and safety.
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  4. How does the Board regulate its licensees?
    The Board promulgates regulations which serve as a basis as to the standard of practice and the Board ensures that these regulations and the statutes are followed.
    It also is the responsibility of the Board to evaluate when a licensee’s conduct or ability to practice appropriately warrants modification, suspension or revocation of the license to practice. When the Board receives a complaint against a licensee and there is reason to believe that the licensee has violated the law, it has the power to investigate, hold hearings, and/or impose some disciplinary sanction. This may include fines, additional education, medical treatment, or a modification of his/her license.
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  5. How can I find out more information about my doctor?
    You can learn more information about a doctor licensed in the State of New Jersey at the New Jersey Healthcare Profile (also known as the Physician Profile) by accessing www.njdoctorlist.com. At this web site, you can learn more about a physician’s education, board certifications, where the physician has hospital privileges, the insurance which he/she accepts, whether any disciplinary action for the last ten years has been taken by the Board, whether any malpractice payments have been made out on the licensee’s behalf and whether he/she has been disciplined by a health care facility.
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  6. I heard there was some discipline taken against my doctor. How can I get more information if that happened or not?
    Any disciplinary action taken against a licensee by the Board for the last ten years can be found on the New Jersey Healthcare Profile at www.njdoctorlist.com. Additional disciplinary information can be obtained by calling (609) 826-7100 or writing to the Board office at P.O. Box 183, Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0183.
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  7. What does D.O. stand for? Is he/she qualified as a medical doctor?
    D.O. stands for Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine and is fully qualified as a physician in the State of New Jersey, with all of the same authorities as medical doctors. His/Her training is essentially the same as a M.D. The only difference is that a D.O. receives extra hours on bone manipulation.
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  8. How do I file a complaint against a doctor?
    From this web site, by clicking on the online consumer complaint form, you can file your complaint electronically.
    If you prefer to do it by hard copy, you can print out the complaint form available on this site and send it to the Board of Medical Examiners, P.O. Box 183, Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0183.
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  9. How long will the investigation take?
    The Board cannot predict how long an investigation will take because each case has many variables. Each matter received by the Board is investigated thoroughly and on its own merits. Some cases are clear and involve a limited number of circumstances and, upon assignment, can be completed quickly. Others are more complicated and may take longer periods of time. The Board will do its best to process your complaint as quickly as it can, while still maintaining an appropriate investigation.
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  10. Will my doctor find out that I filed a complaint?
    Generally, yes. During the Board's investigation, your complaint will be sent to the physician and he/she will be asked to respond to your allegations. If ther are specific reasons why you do not want the doctor to see your complaint or know of your identify, please explain in complaint.
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  11. I have not heard anything about the complaint I submitted sixty days ago. What is the status?
    You can call Christina Smith at (609) 826-7134 or by email at bmepatientadvocate@dca.lps.state.nj.us who can assist you in learning more about the status of your complaint.
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  12. Do I have a right to my medical records?
    In most instances, the patient has a right to receive a copy of his or her medical records, not the original. Although most patients assume that the records belong to them, the Board requires that the physician to maintain the original to ensure that the patient’s medical history is available to any subsequent treating physician or health care provider. Copies may be given to the patient, another doctor, your attorney, your insurance company or another family member if the patient expressly authorizes it. If a patient is deceased, the duly appointed executor or administrator of the estate may obtain copies also. Medical records cannot be released to a spouse, family member (except in the case of a child), attorney or any other person unless the patient gives his/her express consent to release them to that specific person.
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  13. Can a doctor charge me for my medical records?
    The Doctor may charge the patient to copy the records, which cannot be greater than $1.00 per page or $100.00 for the entire record, whichever is less. If the record is less than 10 pages, the doctor may charge $10. A "service fee" may not be charged apart from these amounts. Charges for copies of x-rays and other documents which cannot be reproduced by ordinary photocopying machines are to be charged at the actual costs to reproduce them, plus an administrative fee of the lesser of $10.00 or 10 percent of the cost of reproduction to compensate for office personnel time spent retrieving or reproducing the materials and overhead costs.

    The Doctor has 30 days after he/she receives a written request from the patient, another doctor, an attorney, insurance company, or another family member if the patient expressly authorizes it. If the patient had provided a set of records from the patientís previous Doctor, the patient has a right to have these included as part of the entire medical record. Physicians may not refuse to release a copy of a patientís medical record if they are needed for on going treatment if the patient owes money for the medical services the physician provided. The physician, however, can hold the record until the patient pays for the costs to reproduce the record, providing the record is not required for on going medical care.
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  14. How long must a doctor keep my medical records?
    A doctor has to keep a patient’s medical records for seven years. After that, the physician can destroy them. There is no requirement in the law that requires the physician to notify a patient prior to destroying the records. It is recommended that you request a copy of your medical records when you are changing physicians.
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  15. Can my doctor tell me that he/she does not want to see me anymore as a patient?
    As long as you are not being treated under circumstances where your life or health may be threatened or compromised unless timely medical care is given, the doctor may terminate the relationship. The doctor must notify the patient, in writing, that he/she will no longer provide care as a date certain, which cannot be less than thirty days prior to the termination date. This letter must be sent by certified mail, return receipt requested. The doctor, however, is obligated to provide all necessary emergency care and services, including providing necessary prescriptions, until the date of termination. If requested by the patient, the doctor must make reasonable efforts to assist the patient in finding another provider and the transfer of the medical records.
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  16. Must my doctor provide me a chaperone during an examination?
    In an office setting, a doctor is required to provide notice to the patient that he/she has a right to a chaperone present whenever a breast and pelvic examination of females or during genitalia and rectal examinations of both male and females. If the proposed chaperone is not acceptable to the patient, the patient may refuse and the doctor is not obligated to provide further care. Also, if the doctor desires to have a chaperone present and the patient refuses, the doctor is not obligated to provide further treatment. If care is not provided, the doctor, however, must discuss with the patient the risks of not receiving further care.
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  17. I was unhappy with the care that I received at the hospital, can I complain to the Board?
    The Board only has jurisdiction over the doctors. If you believe the care provided by a doctor in a hospital was improper, you can file a complaint as indicated above. If you have a complaint about the care provided within the hospital, you should contact the Department of Health and Senior Services, Complaint section at (800) 792-9770.
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  18. Is the State Board of Medical Examiners responsible for autopsy reports?
    No. This is handled by The State Medical Examiners who can be reached at (609) 896-8900.
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  19. Can you give me a physician referral?
    Unfortunately, the Board cannot provide you with a referral. You may wish to contact your county medical society or the Medical Society of the State of New Jersey at (609) 826-1766, any local hospital, or other physician referral services such as the American Medical Association at (800) 665-2882. You may also wish to check with your health insurance provider for other practitioners within your network. And, when considering a particular physician, you may wish to review the education, certification, hospital affiliation, and other information by reviewing his/her background on the New Jersey Healthcare Profile.
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  20. How do I find out if a medical facility is licensed?
    The Department of Health and Senior Services licenses many types of healthcare facilities. You may search their database here: http://www.state.nj.us/health/healthfacilities/search/ac.shtml
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