Are You Worried About a Colleague?
Physicians are obligated to report any knowledge of a colleague's possible impairment to the Board in a timely manner. Physicians who fail to do so may find themselves in the unfortunate position of being subject to disciplinary action themselves by the Board.
If you are worried about a colleague's possible impairment, you may encourage that individual to self-report, while explaining you will be forced to do so if the colleague doesn't comply. You may also contact the IPHP directly about the problem and this will satisfy your obligation for reporting the matter to the Board.
When Should a Physician Self-report?
It is in a physician's best interest to self-report to the IPHP as soon as possible if any of the following applies:
- missed work for more than two weeks due to a mental or physical disorder or disability of a chronic or debilitating nature;
- been diagnosed with a chronic illness with a known mental health component (for example MS, Parkinson's, HIV);
- had problems related to drug and alcohol use such as DUI or other alcohol or drug related offenses; disciplinary action by a federal or state agency for this reason; self prescribed controlled substances; or practiced medicine under the influence of alcohol or other mood altering substances;
- experienced problems with anger management; or
- been urged by friends, family or colleagues to get help for mental health issues such as depression; physical disability; or substance abuse.
What Happens When a Physician Self-reports?
Once a physician contacts the IPHP about a possible impairment issue, the IPHP will gather information about the individual's situation. This may result in referral for further evaluation and treatment, if indicated. The IPHC then determines whether or not the physician would benefit from ongoing support and monitoring. If so, an individualized contract is developed that includes safeguards that are designed to allow the doctor to continue/return to practice with reasonable skill and safety. The majority of the participants in the IPHP are actively practicing medicine.
What are the Eligibility Requirements?
The IPHP is responsible for determining whether or not a physician meets the criteria for participation in the program. An individual is not eligible for the program if any of the following applies:
- engaged in the unlawful diversion or distribution of a controlled or illegal substance to a third party or for personal gain or profit;
- caused harm or injury to a patient;
- currently under Board investigation for matters related to an impairment; or
- failed to provide truthful information or fully cooperate with the IPHP or the Board.
Who has Access to Information Contained in IPHP Files?
State law mandates that information about IPHP participants be kept confidential as long as participants are in compliance with program requirements. This means information about a participant will not become a matter of public record, i.e., be reported to the Board, the National Practitioner Data Bank, or the news media. The IPHP only provides information about participants to the Board when they are not in compliance with the terms of their agreements or contracts. Fortunately, this is a rare occurrence because participants are given clear and fair guidelines for remaining in good standing with the program.