If you’ve received a letter from the medical board that a patient has filed a complaint against you, you may be furious, confused, scared or just annoyed. To defend against this allegation, you may be in for a long, complicated process. This process is, in many ways, more complicated than being charged with a crime. And the end result can be just as impactful on your life. Here are some do’s and don’ts to keep in mind as you prepare for the process.
DO respond to the letter. The first letter you will likely receive will typically let you know that the Board is opening an investigation into a complaint. Consult with an attorney before responding but do not delay. If you want to keep your medical license, you MUST respond to this letter. If you fail to respond to this letter, the Board will file an Accusation against you to revoke your license.
In responding to this letter you should do as your attorney directs you. At a minimum, that will likely be providing the Board with a substantive response to the allegations as well as highly critical background information on you, the licensee. While information and evidence to defend yourself against the allegation is important to get the investigation dismissed, the background information on you helps provide more context as to who they are investigating. The sooner one can prove to the Board that a complaint is baseless and the one being complained about has nothing to hide and is a superstar in their profession, the sooner you and your attorney can put this all behind you.
Don’t take this first steps lightly; we have seen time and time again the impact a poorly written, highly defensive, and incomplete response can have at either prolonging or exacerbating an investigation. Rather, if you do all the work your investigator could possibly do for it, you are making him or her more likely to be satisfied that there is simply no more rocks to turn over. Doing otherwise has drastic effects on the rest of the process.
DO provide complete, accurate documentation. The good news in any disciplinary action is that you should have documentation to back up your position. Good documentation could automatically quash an issue the medical board might have.
Don’t have great records? That may be an obstacle we have to overcome. There are ways to overcome that issue but before you take action to overcome this obstacle, consult with your attorney. Certain actions may be helpful in some situations (e.g. remedial training, supplemental record keeping, self-audits, etc.) but depending on the circumstances, it could be seen as an admission and result in discipline.
DON’T get too emotional. It can be infuriating to have someone making false allegations against you. It’s okay to feel this way but try to leave those feelings outside of the process. You will want all of your written communication to come across professional. If and when you get to the hearing, try to leave emotions at the door. Answer the questions directly and honestly and save the anger for when you leave your hearing. Remember, if you don’t know the answer to a question, you can say “I don’t know.” Throughout the process, do you best to remain professional with everyone you encounter.
DON’T try to represent yourself. Even if you are 100% positive the allegation is false, it’s best not to represent yourself. The process may appear simple but can be very complex and one misstep could result in discipline and potentially having your license revoked. On top of the complexity of the process, you will be emotional and may say something that could be construed in a different way. Your expertise is being a doctor; you are not familiar with the rules surrounding your case, the disciplinary process, etc. The results of a medical board investigation can have long-lasting, expansive effects on your career, reputation and life.
Having somewhere with you, experienced in the process, the desired response(s), and well-versed in the procedure of what will transpire provides some certainty and peace of mind.
If you’re facing a similar issue, give us a call, sooner rather than later. We are here to navigate this process for you and ensure the best possible outcome.