Surviving a Medical Board Investigation

Mark Crane

Disclosures

April 13, 2016

In This Article

A Tighter Crackdown on Doctors

Any physician can become the target of a state medical board investigation. By law, these licensing bodies are required to evaluate all complaints—serious and silly, and whether filed by a patient, colleague, or hospital.

The charges can range from the ridiculous ("I'm a space alien and the doctor broke his promise to help return me to my home planet"—a real complaint!) to allegations of negligence that resulted in a patient's injury or death.

Medical boards wield enormous power over doctors' careers and livelihoods. They can impose penalties that range from reprimands and fines to suspensions or revocations of medical licenses. In 2012, a total of 4479 physicians were disciplined, according to the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB), which represents 70 medical and osteopathic boards in the United States and its territories.

Attorneys who specialize in defending doctors say the boards have become more aggressive than ever. "The truth is, some of these boards like to eat their young," says Ronald W. Chapman, a healthcare attorney who has offices in Florida and Michigan. "That sounds extreme, but the boards can be relentless and their expectations about medical care sometimes exceed reality."

The scope of board inquiries has expanded in recent years. Minor billing errors, a rude bedside manner, poor documentation, and even social media posts are all subject to scrutiny.

"In the boards' view, there's no such thing as a doctor who is off duty and has a private life," says David L. Adelson, a healthcare attorney with Kern Augustine Conroy and Schoppmann in Bridgewater, New Jersey. "Whatever you do in your private life is subject to their authority and could affect your license. A Facebook post, or a YouTube video depicting you acting inappropriately, can lead to an investigation."

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