When endocrinologist Francine Fitzhugh (not her real name) opened her mailbox, the last thing she expected was a letter from her state's Medical Board. "An obese patient filed a complaint against me, stating that I was responsible for her 36-pound weight gain."
Dr. Fitzhugh wasn't worried at first. "The claim was ridiculous. I had provided appropriate care, but the patient had refused to follow my instructions. So when the board requested the patient's records, I said, 'Sure, why not?'"
But that was when her problems started. "I didn't realize what a Pandora's box I'd opened. I had to defend every comma of my record-keeping. Then the Board began reviewing the charts of my other patients and finding all sorts of supposed 'flaws.'"
Eventually, the board dismissed the original complaint, but the story didn't end there. "They required a practice monitor to inspect my patient records for another 2 years. To add insult to injury, I had to pay the monitor out of my own pocket, which drained me financially."
Dr. Fitzhugh's story isn't uncommon. "Many of my physician clients were naive in their responses to that first letter from the Medical Board," says Steven L. Simas, Esq, Founding Member of Simas and Associates, LTD, a Sacramento-based law firm with a specialty in healthcare law. "They walked right into a mine field."
The Medical Board investigation was one of the most stressful periods of my life," Dr. Fitzhugh recalls. "Although I knew I had done nothing wrong, I still felt embarrassed. I lost self-confidence and became anxious about my career."
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Cite this: Never Face a Medical Board Investigation Alone - Medscape - Jan 17, 2013.