The Black Cloud of a Medical Board Investigation is a must read for practicing professionals. The title speaks for itself. A referral to the medical board of your state can turn into a complex nightmare scenario in which you can be viewed as guilty until proven innocent.
To limit damages, targeted providers are forced to hire lawyers at their own expense to hopefully limit damages. Even though most cases are resolved quickly, even these can easily cost $20,000 and up in legal fees. In our experience, medical board actions have been as costly, as high a career risk, and as stressful as a malpractice suit.
The cases that go “south” can lead to summary suspension of license, difficulty in obtaining malpractice insurance, getting on certain insurance plans, dismissal from a hospital staff, and getting a “strike” in a 3 strike (3 strikes and your out) state like Florida.
Unfortunately, complaints are easy to file. The accessibility of filing by everyday individuals has made these actions much more common than malpractice suits. To make matters worse, accusations can morph over time and can be resubmitted multiple times if a patient or family does not get their desired result.
Medical boards receive many different kinds of complaints. Some are extremely serious (see below) but it has been found that most board actions are a result of poor communication and poor interpersonal relationships.
The most serious kind are designated sentinel events. According to the Joint Commission, a sentinel event is “and unexpected occurrence involving death or serious physical or psychological injury, or risk thereof.” They are called sentinel because “they signal the need for immediate investigation and response.
Ordinarily, these types of incidents get reported to the Medical Board by the critical incident committee of the hospital. Although relatively minor events can qualify as sentinel, more frequently they are about major events and wind up being appropriately referred from the hospital to the board. A significant proportion of these complaints are initiated by unhappy families who want “whatever they perceive has happened to their relative never to happen again”. Those who work with such cases know that perception and reality are not always identical in many situations. While most providers are understandably paranoid about malpractice and/or liability issues, they nevertheless need to educate themselves about medical board practices in their states. The potential adverse effects of a board investigation are not to be taken lightly. Both type of incidents, malpractice allegation and medical board referrals, are serious events that can be life-changing. Hire appropriate experienced counsel to help you survive the process. Good patient communication, positive interpersonal relationship, and excellent documentation will help prevent both malpractice claims and board referrals. Good documentation does not have to lengthy, but when it is goal specific and captures the essence of clinical interactions, it can be life-saving (and career-saving) if confronted with either type of incident.
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