Medical school loans looming, young Sid Billings* answered a newspaper ad to work parttime in Dr. Mammonâ€™s* clinic, proffering physical therapy, chiropractic services, acupuncture, the works. When Dr. Mammon retired, Dr. Billings seized an opportunity to grab the brass ring and bought the entire operation. Only then did he discover the staff wasnâ€™t generating much revenue. Furthermore, theyâ€™d been billing for patients Dr. Billings hadnâ€™t seen under Dr. Billingsâ€™ name. Since staff used the stamp with Dr. Billingsâ€™ signature, it was difficult for the medical board to determine which patients Dr. Billings had and hadnâ€™t evaluated.
*Names and details changed.
If a letter arrives on official letterhead notifying you that you're under investigation for alleged misconduct, you may ask yourself: How did this happen and how should I deal with it? Investigations are sown with a complaint or referral from another agency. These sprout from patients, hospitals, clinical personnel, insurance companies, or malpractice cases. Complaints not falling under the board's purview or rising to the level of investigation are closed.
For opened cases, in routine background checking, investigators might speak with others involved, track down your prior National Practitioner Data Bank, malpractice, substance abuse, licensing, and quality assurance histories, and check information with educational institutions and hospitals. Confidentiality prevents investigators from unmasking complaint sources, so donâ€™t whine and waste energy.
Some Helpful Suggestions
There's a reason why women ask someone else, "Does this dress make me look fat?" You wouldn't wield a scalpel to your own gallbladder. Don't shackle your attorney by serving as his consultant. You're too close for objectivity.
It's also worth every cent to retain a renowned expert early in the proceedings. Ask the expert to indicate where you might have strayed and don't argue.
Furthermore, your mother was right when she told you to dress up and play nicely with the other children. Everyone understands you're hurt, scared, angry, and offended. Misconduct decisions aren't based on personality. But muzzle your arrogance and belligerence. When preparing for an interview or hearing, dress professionally. Omit sandals, shorts, and T-shirts that advertise where you spent your last vacation.
In the movie Love Story, Ali MacGraw says, "Love means never having to say youâ€™re sorry," and she ends up dead. If you honestly feel remorseful, communicate constructively what youâ€™ve learned, what courses have been taken, and how you have restructured your practice to prevent future occurrences.
Dealing with the Repercussions
The review board protects public safety. You must demonstrate that it's safe to allow you to practice. If you are unable to do so, the consequences may be severe. Actions vary according to state, usually falling under the following categories:
Given the complexities of contemporary medical practice, no physician is immune from potential misconduct. Be assured the process strives simultaneously to provide physicians with opportunities to respond to allegations and to protect the profession's integrity.
What to Expect and How to React During a Hearing
J. Thalia Cunningham, MD, FACEP practices emergency medicine. She welcomes questions and comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.