Surviving a Medical Board Investigation

Mark Crane

Disclosures

April 13, 2016

In This Article

It's Wise to Know What Happens

Although every complaint must be investigated, boards don't spend a lot of time on frivolous ones. "Each state has different rules, but generally an investigator is assigned to do an initial review," says Chapman. "He or she can dismiss it without sending it up the line." For example, the doctor in the space alien complaint was never notified at the time and didn't even hear about it until years later.

"The doctor may receive a letter asking for medical records," says Chapman. "Not all such requests turn into full-fledged investigations, but it's the beginning of the process. Physicians should recognize that this is serious and contact a healthcare attorney."

If the investigator wants to meet with you, most attorneys advise against speaking with him or her on your own.

"Doctors think that if they just explain the facts, this can be worked out," says Chapman. "But that's a mistake. The investigator may not even tell the doctor specifically what he or she is looking at. The investigator will take notes of the meeting, which can be used against you. If you hire an attorney, he or she will contact the investigator and try to pin down the specific issue so that you can provide a stronger written response."

David Adelson adds, "Your legal counsel can help identify the areas the board is focusing on. Most boards have the authority to look into things outside of the initial complaint. So if they're looking at records of a particular patient, they may also demand charts for other patients who have had the same procedure or service. By doing a proactive analysis, we attempt to fix things or address them before the board demands it. For example, the board may dismiss the initial complaint but find problems with informed consent or documentation in the other charts. A healthcare attorney can help you find witnesses to testify on your behalf."

Once a complaint is officially served, the physician generally has 20-45 days to respond in writing.

The biggest mistake a physician can make is to ignore the complaint or not take it seriously. "Failing to respond to the inquiry can be grounds for discipline in and of itself," says Drew Carlson, the FSMB's director of communications. "Because of the threat of malpractice lawsuits, physicians may be conditioned to be guarded about what they divulge about an incident that prompted a complaint. However, they need to be transparent with the medical board and promptly forward requested records."

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