Recently MedScape published a comprehensive report on the impact of a medical board investigation on physicians. The report referred to the investigation as a “black cloud,” which can have far-reaching effects on a physician’s career. Medical board complaints are very common, and complaints to the board may potentially be even more damaging to a doctor’s professional reputation and working life than a medical malpractice claim is. When the medical board takes adverse action against a physician, the action is reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) and the number of adverse actions reported is close to four times as great as the reported medical malpractice payouts.
Doctors who find themselves the subject of a medical board complaint need to be aware of how the process works and need to act assertively and aggressively to try to defend themselves and resolve the allegations. A quick resolution resulting in no adverse action should be the ultimately goal, and an attorney with experience in medical license defense can help doctors who are being accused of wrongdoing to try to achieve this outcome during their interactions with the medical board.
The Lasting Impact of a Medical Board Investigation
MedScape likens the process of going through a medical board investigation to The Trial, by Kafka, in which the process is a punishment in-and-of-itself. Physicians who have complaints filed against them may initially not be told very much information about the allegations which have been made. Many fear the outcome of a full hearing, and opt to plead guilty to the allegations even with limited information. The result is the doctor is left with a black mark on his or her record, which could in turn result in more adverse actions in the future.
Not all doctors plead guilty, but when they do decide to fight the accusations against them, “a small percentage of complaint investigations can get quite aggressive.” Allegations can sometimes change and evolve over the course of proceedings, and the actions the Medical Board takes in the end can ruin a doctor’s career.
In some cases, a doctor’s license can even be summarily removed before a hearing occurs. Any adverse decisions made by the board can also lead to additional problems for a doctor, like having health insurers drop the physician, and losing privileges at hospitals, which create a ripple effect that is detrimental to the doctor’s ability to practice medicine.
Even when cases end up being resolved in a doctor’s favor, the process can be stressful and can impact their work. An example is given of a gastroenterologists office that had to close for a week because a complaint was filed against one physician in the office, even though the complaint had nothing to do with practicing medicine and was a personal accusation. The doctor’s license was temporarily suspended after the complaint was made, although the complaint ended up being dismissed within 24 hours of the time it was reviewed.
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