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What triggers a medical board investigation?

Medical boards are responsible for protecting the public from incompetent physicians. Although the particulars will vary depending on the jurisdiction, most states have laws that require physicians’ practice in a professional manner. Unprofessional conduct is generally defined as physical abuse, poor record keeping, inappropriate prescription practices, failure to keep up with continuing medical education requirements and conviction of a felony.

But how do these organizations know when a physician’s actions are questionable? What triggers an official investigation? The most common reason for an investigation: a complaint to the medical board. A fellow physician, medical professional, current or former patient or concerned member of the public could file the complaint with the board. Although the fact that the source may seem broad could cause concern, it is important to note that a complaint must be more than frustration over poor customer service or the diagnosis. The complaint must generally involve allegations that rise to the level of unprofessional conduct to lead to an investigation.

Those who receive notification of an impending investigation are wise to take the notice seriously. The board will likely request a response and a well drafted response can save you additional headaches.

Although the details to include in the response will vary depending on the details of the allegations, it should generally include an explanation for the mistake as well as the steps you took to minimize the risk of the error. The response may benefit from information to show that the error was an abnormality and explain steps taken to better ensure that it will never happen again. This could include enrollment in a continued medical education course or implementation of additional safety protocols.