To file a complaint with the licensing board, patients, family members of patients, other health care providers, employees, or anyone who has interacted with a physician may do so. With more awareness of this fact due to consumer groups and state laws requiring the posting of patient rights in waiting rooms, there have been an increased number of complaints filed against physicians as well as sanctions being imposed. Disciplinary action by the Nevada Board of Medical Examiners can include:
- A reprimand
- Restrictions on a physician’s practice
- Continuing medical education or monitoring requirements
- License suspension or revocation
Not only that, but the fallout from a board complaint doesn’t stop at disciplinary action. By contrast, doctors usually have to tell their professional liability insurers, managed care plans, and patients’ health insurance plans about any disciplinary actions taken against them. That’s why if you have any inkling of a complaint against you, it’s highly recommended that you reach out to an experienced medical license defense attorney who can stop the complaint and defend your reputation.
1. Not Taking The Complaint Seriously
After a physician receives a complaint from the licensing board, they may act like it is not serious and write it off as foolish. They may also enter denial mode and pretend nothing happened. Because physicians are highly respected professionals, accepting that someone accused them of false unprofessional conduct can be difficult for them. However, it’s always in a physician’s best interests to take any complaint seriously, whether or not there is evidence to support said claims.
2. Disregarding Or Missing The Response Deadline
When a complaint is filed with a licensing board, the board generally sends a notification of the complaint to the physician. In that notice, there is usually a deadline for the doctor to submit a written, narrative response to the claims and records, as well as a date by which they must be submitted. As a result, the deadline for producing documents and submitting a response may be extended before the physician has completed whatever is necessary to mount an effective defense. At best, this will harm the doctor’s reputation; at worst, it might lead to sanctions being imposed.
3. Choosing Not To Consult With A Medical License Defense Attorney
It is critical for physicians to locate a doctor’s license defense attorney who is licensed to practice in their state and is knowledgeable of the board’s rules. Physicians frequently delay consulting legal counsel until significant damage has been done to their professional reputations because of pride, cost concerns, professional rivalry, or a sense that they can manage the problem on their own.
It is always better to have someone else defend you in a court case, rather than having to do it yourself. This is especially true for physicians, who are often the target of complaints. An experienced professional license defense attorney will be able to help you protect your reputation and livelihood if a complaint is made against you.
4. Failing To Inform The Malpractice Insurer Or Risk Manager
When a complaint is filed, most doctors are hesitant to advertise the fact. Physicians might avoid notifying even those who can assist them when charges include severe or embarrassing allegations. Doing so may be a big blunder for a variety of reasons. First, under most malpractice insurance policies, physicians are obligated to notify the insurer of any claim or potential claim that might require coverage.
Secondly, many physicians are contractually obligated to notify a risk manager about any and all claims, even if they seem baseless. If notice is not given in a timely manner, it could result in the loss of insurance coverage or cause other problems such as jeopardizing employment. Furthermore, the physician’s malpractice insurance company or organization may provide or pay for assistance, such as experienced counsel to defend the doctor before the board. As a result, keeping a board complaint under wraps from these parties is not in the best interests of the physician professionally or economically.
5. Attempting To Prevent The Complaining Party From Pursuing The Complaint
If you receive a complaint, it is best not to try and dissuade the party from pursuing it as this will almost never work. In fact, it could result in damaging evidence being used against you or make you seem like you were trying to intimidate the complainant which would be even worse. After getting a telephone call from an investigator, do not assume that everything can be explained away easily.
Quickly resolving some complaints may avoid formal sanctions, but physicians shouldn’t be fooled by an investigator’s initially friendly or supportive approach. The investigator’s attitude frequently changes throughout the process, and what the physician says at first without much thought can become an issue later. To prevent this, physicians should avoid talking to anyone else about the case, even potential witnesses. These conversations are not classified as attorney-client privilege or any other legally protected secret.
6. Responding With Anger
A physician’s initial inclination in the face of a complaint is to react violently or emotionally, either as a result of righteous indignation or dread about the potential implications of such a complaint on the practice. Another response might be to place the blame for less-than-optimal outcomes or for drawing the doctor into a complaint on other healthcare providers.
7. Needlessly Admitting Fault
In every field, things don’t always go as planned. In some instances, the best response is to admit you made a mistake, express remorse, and promise to do better next time. However, it’s not always black and white when it comes to who’s at fault. It’s very unusual for a physician’s behavior to be inexplicable, or at the very least to be cast in a more favorable light than what is presented in a complaint or an investigator’s report. As a result, it is generally unwise for a doctor simply to acknowledge responsibility and hope the board will give credit to his honesty with a slap on the wrist or minor punishment. In general, admissions without qualifications are likely to result in more serious penalties, increased malpractice risk, and fewer career alternatives.
8. Responding As If You’re Speaking With A Fellow Physician
Medical board members are not necessarily physicians or health care specialists. As a result, although medical board members are generally healthcare professionals, they are not trained in every medical specialty. In other words, when a physician is responding to a complaint from the board, they should use language that will be understood by someone with knowledge of the medical field, without sounding like they are speaking down to or insulting the board.
9. Failing To Respond To Every Charge In The Complaint
Many times, a written doctor’s response will only address some of the accusations made in a patient’s complaint. Although the response should be as concise as possible, it would be unwise to ignore an allegation or presume that the board will automatically rule out a charge that has no merit and doesn’t deserve even a denial from the responding physician.
10. Hiding, Altering, Or Destroying Records
The easiest way for a physician to lose their license is by revising or destroying records. No health care provider should ever hide, alter, or destroy a medical record even if they think it would make the record more accurate. This could be irreversible, no matter how outlandish the accusation against you is.
Contact Our Medical License Defense Attorney Today
Physicians who avoid the mistakes discussed in this chapter and take the steps suggested will be best able to ward off disciplinary action and other adverse consequences that may result from a licensing board complaint. However, there are some circumstances that cannot be avoided. When those situations arise, you must seek counsel from a qualified Las Vegas physician’s license defense lawyer as soon as possible. Contact the Spartacus Law Firm today for a free consultation and to learn more about how we can help.