Texas doctors are probably aware that the number of complaints filed before the Texas Medical Board (TMB) are on the rise. Indeed, between 2004 and 2013, Texas Medical Board enforcement cases against physicians and other health care professionals in the state increased 76 percent. Part of the explanation is that Texas’ tort reform legislation, passed in 2001, transferred what might have been court cases against physicians to the TMB. This development has flooded the TMB with complaints, and while some are valid, many aren’t. Here are some things to keep in mind if your professional reputation comes under fire from the Texas Medical Board.
First, Don’t Panic
The TMB takes seriously every complaint it receives – and there are a lot in the wake of tort reform – even if only a handful reach the investigation phase. But the TMB is only just now coming to grips with this influx in complaints. One thing you shouldn’t do is panic. It’s best to hold off on the quick response to the TMB, as much as your gut tells you the complaint is baseless. Instead, contact a license defense attorney.
But Don’t Ignore It Either
While a letter from the TMB isn’t necessarily a cause for alarm, you shouldn’t sit on your hands. If the TMB has reached the phase of its investigation where it is sending you letters, then it will expect a response. Even if you feel the allegations are preposterous, you should take the matter seriously.
Minor Violations Could Lead to Major Headaches
Although the TMB follows disciplinary guidelines based on certain violations, you shouldn’t just expect to weather a “slap on the wrist.” The TMB staff attorney and/or investigator will look for every possible violation that an act could constitute, including rather broad categories such as "unprofessional or dishonorable conduct." The TMB often uses these blanket allegations to ratchet up the disciplinary penalties and fees sought. A license defense attorney can attempt to counter this action and argue down the allegations and perhaps get them dismissed altogether.
Above all, physicians under investigation from the TMB should be aware that the system often takes on its own momentum. It’s the job of a license defense attorney to push against this momentum and fight for the best possible outcome.