Sometimes, a patient, patient’s family members, a competitor or others file a complaint against a physician. The complaint could make any number of allegations, from claims the physician was under the influence while providing care to claims they failed to act within the accepted standard of care.
Whatever the reason for the complaint, the Board could choose to move forward with an investigation.
What happens if the state licensing authority decides to investigate?
The investigation generally begins with a non-critical review of the complaint, with the assumption that everything alleged in the complaint is true. For those who practice in Texas, the Texas Medical Board (TMB) will then assign the case to a nurse investigator who will investigate and look to gather additional evidence. This could include a review of the physician’s records and interviews of co-workers. The process generally takes a few months. After complete, the TMB will either dismiss the matter or likely schedule an Informal Settlement Conference.
In a recent example, the TMB sent letter to the physician who faced allegations of improperly providing prescriptions to family members. After completing its investigation, the TMB scheduled an Informal Settlement Conference via videoconference. The physician and attorney, two board representatives and attorneys for the Board attended. The goal was to review the allegations and negotiate a resolution.
What happens if negotiations fail?
In this case, the group was unable to reach a resolution. The TMB chose to move the matter forward and filed a complaint with the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH). This stage generally follows one of two paths: a formal hearing and/or mediation. In this example, the TMB requested mediation. The SOAH granted the motion.
Mediation involves a neutral third party helping to guide the negotiations. Ideally the parties use these services to reach a resolution. The parties in this case agreed to certain restrictions on the physician’s license primarily limiting the ability to prescribe certain medications and in doing so avoided a public trial.
What can other physicians and medical practitioners learn from this case?
The process takes some time, but ensures physicians have the opportunity to defend themselves against these allegations. This is a serious matter; limitations on one’s medical license can severely impact their ability to continue the practice of medicine. Limitations are only one option. The TMB can push for suspension or even revocation of one’s medical license.
Attorney John Rivas is responsible for this communication.