4 Things Not to Do at a Medical Board Hearing

Anne L. Finger, MA


March 13, 2014

In This Article

Providing Inadequate Documentation

If the board requests documents, be careful and selective in what you send.

"We'll receive 5 boxes of records from a physician, and only a small part will be relevant," says Zachariah, who recommends that you include a clear synopsis and timeline. "Facts are important, but so are judgment calls. You need to say what happened in this case and why you made the decisions you made."

Notes Zur, "Sometimes they'll just ask for your records. It's your records against the patient's word, so good record-keeping is really important."

Tobias adds that if you know you made a mess of your record-keeping, sign up for a medical record-keeping course even before you appear before the board. Then you can say, "I've taken a course, and I passed it," which will mitigate the damage.

Blowing Your Cool Before the Board

If you get called before the board and you're really upset, "park your anger somewhere; don't bring it with you," says Tobias.

He once represented a radiologist who had 10 cases against him and did a nice job of explaining them all, so it was reasonable to assume that the board would be satisfied with his responses.

"When he finished, he went on a rant, complaining of the 'Gestapo hearing.' I couldn't shut him up," Tobias recalls. "So guess what? He got a ding on his license, had to take a refresher course, and got 2 years' probation."

Similarly, Tobias warns against "foot-in-mouth disease." "You say something and then think, 'Why did I say that?' Once it's out there, you can't bring it back in."

Answer questions posed to you directly, and don't provide narratives, says Duane Morris's Neville Bilimoria. "And if you don't know, say that. Don't speculate. It's hard for doctors to understand that they're allowed not to have the right answer."

Speculation can lead to more questions, he points out -- and to doubts about the physician's credibility.

It's also important not to assume that the board doesn't know your practice, Bilimoria adds. "Doctors think they know more than the medical board, but these doctors on the boards are very savvy -- they usually do their research and know how to address the specialty."

Never be condescending, and don't be defensive. "It's OK to say, 'It wasn't negligence, but I could have done better,'" Bilimoria says. "The board wants you to understand the gravity of why you're before them. If they determine quickly that you're not sorry or in some way don't want to improve, they'll think you're arrogant and hit you with a bigger fine or suspension."

Above all, says Bilimoria, "I say to my client, 'We are going in to tell the truth. Don't be evasive.' The department has investigators who are talking to a lot of people. Board members know when a physician is honest and when he or she is dishonest."

In sum, says Zachariah, "Answer promptly, properly, thoroughly, and professionally."


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