Patients' complaints involving ophthalmologists in the province of Ontario, Canada: a 5-year review

Can J Ophthalmol. 2020 Jun;55(3 Suppl 1):22-26. doi: 10.1016/j.jcjo.2019.08.007. Epub 2019 Nov 8.


Objective: To present an overview of complaints against ophthalmologists to the regulatory body in the province of Ontario, Canada, during a 5-year period.

Design: Retrospective cross-sectional study.

Methods: All completed complaints to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) involving ophthalmologists from January 2013 to May 2018 were reviewed. Data regarding the prevalence of complaints, physician characteristics, practice location, reason of complaint, and outcomes as decided by the Inquiries, Complaints and Reports Committee (ICRC) were collected. Identified concerns were classified across 3 domains: clinical care and treatment, professionalism and conduct, and practice management.

Results: There were 372 complaints involving 211 ophthalmologists out of 448 practicing ophthalmologists in Ontario. A total of 933 issues were raised in the 372 complaints. Complaints related to clinical care and treatment were most common (76.3%), followed by professionalism and conduct (55.4%) and practice management (24.7%). Within these domains, the 5 largest subcategories in order of occurrence were communication, billing practices, consent, procedural mishap, and documentation. Of the 372 investigations, the ICRC took some form of action in 117 cases (31.4%). The most common actionable decisions issued by the ICRC were advice (19.1%), caution (6.2%), and participation in a specified continuing educational or remediation program (3.5%). Four cases (1.1%) were referred to the Discipline Committee.

Conclusions: Almost half of practicing ophthalmologists in Ontario (47%) received at least one formal CPSO complaint within the 5-year study period. Communication was the most common issue raised in complaints.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Communication
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Delivery of Health Care
  • Dissent and Disputes
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Malpractice / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Ontario / epidemiology
  • Ophthalmologists / statistics & numerical data*
  • Patient Safety / statistics & numerical data*
  • Patient Satisfaction / statistics & numerical data*
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Professional Misconduct / statistics & numerical data*
  • Quality Improvement
  • Retrospective Studies