A Board complaint can feel like a bolt of lightning. But there is one key difference: Medical Board complaints don’t fall from the heavens. They seem to rise from the depths of hell.

Excluding a malpractice lawsuit, Board complaints occupy the top of a list we’ve affectionately dubbed: “The List of Things Doctors Fear the Most.” And we fear Board complaints for good reason. They have the power to permanently alter the trajectory of our careers, and frequently for the worst.

The good news: Solutions and best practices do exist.

This piece will share general tips – best practices useful in navigating a variety of Board complaints. We’ll open with the basics. We’ve also identified six “traps” that doctors can unintentionally spring when preparing a response to a medical Board complaint.

Before we dive deeper, some advice: If you are dealing with a Medical Board complaint, schedule a free consultation with our Founder and CEO, Jeff Segal, MD, JD. A little background: Our Founder and CEO, Jeff Segal, MD, JD was sued for a meritless reason. The case was thrown out, but the experience of being sued galvanized him. Dr. Segal acquired his law degree and created Medical Justice – an organization dedicated to protecting doctors from medico-legal threats. And we’ve been at it since 2001. We have experience helping doctors navigate Board complaints.

"Can Medical Justice solve my problem?" Click here to review recent consultations...

We’ve been protecting doctors from medico-legal threats since 2001. We’ve seen it all. Here’s a sample of typical recent consultation discussions…

  • Former employee stole patient list. Now a competitor…
  • Patient suing doctor in small claims court…
  • Just received board complaint…
  • Allegations of sexual harassment by employee…
  • Patient filed police complaint doctor inappropriately touched her…
  • DEA showed up to my office…
  • Patient “extorting” me. “Pay me or I’ll slam you online.”
  • My carrier wants me to settle. My case is fully defensible…
  • My patient is demanding an unwarranted refund…
  • How do I safely terminate doctor-patient relationship?
  • How to avoid reporting to Data Bank…
  • I want my day in court. But don’t want to risk my nest egg…
  • Hospital wants to fire me…
  • Sham peer review inappropriately limiting privileges…
  • Can I safely use stem cells in my practice?
  • Patient’s results are not what was expected…
  • Just received request for medical records from an attorney…
  • Just received notice of intent to sue…
  • Just received summons for meritless case…
  • Safely responding to negative online reviews…

We challenge you to supply us with a medico-legal obstacle we haven’t seen before. Know you are in good hands. Schedule your consultation below – or click here to visit our booking page.

 

Without further delay, on to the main event.

Who can file a Medical Board complaint?

Anyone with an ax to grind. If the patient (or a patient’s family) can scrounge together the capital required to put a postage stamp to an envelope ($0.55 as of July 2020), they are equipped to propel a compliant. Electronic mail works just as well. The bar is low. And when the bar is low, it is not shocking when unqualified and frivolous complaints enter the ecosystem.

Our next point: Depending on your situation (and your state), identifying the patient responsible for propelling the complaint can be as challenging as identifying the exact storm cloud responsible for sending a lightning bolt through the roof of your house.

So – take preemptive action. Ask your malpractice carrier about Board complaint coverage BEFORE the worst happens.

It’s a “belt-and suspenders” approach. Your existing malpractice insurance may claim to cover Board complaints, but the coverage present is most likely puddle deep. If you don’t know how (or if) your malpractice insurance covers Board complaints, figure it out. Now. Contact your carrier and determine your level of coverage specific to Board complaints. If your present coverage does not cut it, increase it. It’s not particularly expensive.

And as you may have guessed, Board complaints are triaged prior to investigation. Complaints linked to the following themes receive the highest priority.

Substance abuse…

Sexual harassment or boundary violations…

Severe violations of the standard of care…

If yours is linked to one of the three core themes described above, prepare for an aggressive response.

Now that we’ve addressed the basics, we’ll describe several hypothetical Medical Board complaints, along with several hypothetical solutions. Best practices will be reinforced. Traps and missteps will be spotlighted for your education.

Medical Board Complaint Case Study 1: Doctor’s Case Shredded by His Own Records

A doctor receives a patient complaint. The doctor recognizes the patient propelling the complaint and knows the patient has many unpaid bills. The complaint alleges you have routinely billed him for visits/treatments that never transpired. You know your own records can vindicate you. You assemble these records and share them with the entity investigating the complaint, confident your own “bullet-proof” record keeping protocols will quickly end this farce.

The trap: Supplying too much information is dangerous…

The remedy: Seek qualified counsel as soon as you know there’s a problem

In this scenario, the doctor has created a substantial risk by supplying documentation that is not directly relevant to the original complaint. The Board may conduct a thorough investigation and find evidence of a different issue.

For example, the Board may find out the person responsible for keeping the medical records was routinely dragging his feet. The notes could have been recorded late, or a patient’s informed consent may not have been properly documented.

The doctor in this hypothetical scenario supplied more data than was necessary to address the complaint because he believed doing so would afford him an extra layer of protection. This represents a defensive maneuver that could have landed him in a minefield if the stars aligned.

Reduce this risk by seeking qualified counsel first. If you own your own practice, contact your malpractice carrier and set up an appointment with counsel. If you are employed, contact the administration and get in contact with their legal counsel. Meeting with qualified legal counsel eliminates a substantial amount of risk. For one, they’ll review your response and eliminate mistakes. Next, they’ll assess the patient’s initial compliant, study the record requests, and stop you from supplying irrelevant information. If the Board asks for all records, then, of course, send what the Board requests. If they are merely looking for your response, keep it simple.

When responding to Board complaints, do not supply more information than is required. The “weight” of the “paper” you’ve supplied may crush your own head by mistake. Walk alongside seasoned experts instead. Schedule a free consultation to learn how we can help.

"Can Medical Justice solve my problem?" Click here to review recent consultations...

We’ve been protecting doctors from medico-legal threats since 2001. We’ve seen it all. Here’s a sample of typical recent consultation discussions…

  • Former employee stole patient list. Now a competitor…
  • Patient suing doctor in small claims court…
  • Just received board complaint…
  • Allegations of sexual harassment by employee…
  • Patient filed police complaint doctor inappropriately touched her…
  • DEA showed up to my office…
  • Patient “extorting” me. “Pay me or I’ll slam you online.”
  • My carrier wants me to settle. My case is fully defensible…
  • My patient is demanding an unwarranted refund…
  • How do I safely terminate doctor-patient relationship?
  • How to avoid reporting to Data Bank…
  • I want my day in court. But don’t want to risk my nest egg…
  • Hospital wants to fire me…
  • Sham peer review inappropriately limiting privileges…
  • Can I safely use stem cells in my practice?
  • Patient’s results are not what was expected…
  • Just received request for medical records from an attorney…
  • Just received notice of intent to sue…
  • Just received summons for meritless case…
  • Safely responding to negative online reviews…

We challenge you to supply us with a medico-legal obstacle we haven’t seen before. Know you are in good hands. Schedule your consultation below – or click here to visit our booking page.

 

Medical Board Complaint Case Study 2: Doctor Derails Board Interview By “Bad Mouthing” His Patient

A patient propels a Board complaint against a doctor. The complaint states the doctor accosted a patient with vulgar and sexually explicit language. The doctor supplies a response, and the Board responds by requesting the doctor appear for an interview. The doctor does so, and perceives the entity hosting the interview is “on his side.” Emboldened by the perceived sympathy, the doctor describes the complaining patient as “unhinged”, “hysterical” and a “crazed nut.”

The trap: The doctor has allowed his emotions to flare…

The remedy: Keep cool, no matter what…

The hero of our story has injured his chances of emerging from the complaint unscathed. Recall the nature of the complaint: The doctor was accused of speaking inappropriately to (and about) a patient. The Board’s representative is searching for evidence that supports that allegation. Referring to any patient in a derogatory manner will be perceived as evidence corroborating this patient’s complaint.

Just keep your cool. And eat some humble pie for breakfast. We’re serious. Check your ego – even if the allegations against you are as fake as Barbie’s suntan. The Board exists to protect patients from substandard medical care. You don’t have to be an angel, but don’t be a devil. Be a human. Be humane. We can help you prepare for such interviews. Schedule a free consultation to learn how we can help.

"Can Medical Justice solve my problem?" Click here to review recent consultations...

We’ve been protecting doctors from medico-legal threats since 2001. We’ve seen it all. Here’s a sample of typical recent consultation discussions…

  • Former employee stole patient list. Now a competitor…
  • Patient suing doctor in small claims court…
  • Just received board complaint…
  • Allegations of sexual harassment by employee…
  • Patient filed police complaint doctor inappropriately touched her…
  • DEA showed up to my office…
  • Patient “extorting” me. “Pay me or I’ll slam you online.”
  • My carrier wants me to settle. My case is fully defensible…
  • My patient is demanding an unwarranted refund…
  • How do I safely terminate doctor-patient relationship?
  • How to avoid reporting to Data Bank…
  • I want my day in court. But don’t want to risk my nest egg…
  • Hospital wants to fire me…
  • Sham peer review inappropriately limiting privileges…
  • Can I safely use stem cells in my practice?
  • Patient’s results are not what was expected…
  • Just received request for medical records from an attorney…
  • Just received notice of intent to sue…
  • Just received summons for meritless case…
  • Safely responding to negative online reviews…

We challenge you to supply us with a medico-legal obstacle we haven’t seen before. Know you are in good hands. Schedule your consultation below – or click here to visit our booking page.

 

Medical Board Complaint Case Study 3: Death by Online Chatroom

Let’s pretend the doctor described above conducts himself perfectly during the interview. He relieves some stress by posting about his experiences online. Much to his delight, the doctors in the private chatroom seems to rally in his favor. Emboldened by the support of strangers, the doctor discusses the event with his friends.

The trap: In pursuit of sympathy, the doctor has revealed private info about the Medical Board complaint to the others…

The remedy: Choose your confidants carefully…

Art has the power to make artists immortal. But the internet has the power to make all of us immortal. Remember these words: If it’s on the internet, it lives forever.

And if it is on the internet, assume it can be retrieved by a third-party and used against you. Posting private information (about a Board complaint) on the internet (even a supposedly private chat room) is like loading a gun, disabling the safety, hiding that weapon somewhere inside of your house, and then forgetting about it.

It may relieve stress in the short-term, but it creates risk in the long-term. If you need support, lean on your spouse or a parent.

How a doctor answers a Medical Board complaint will affect the course of his career – for better, or for worse. During such a critical juncture, it pays to have seasoned experts informing your actions. Medical Justice has formulated strategies for responding to Board complaints completely and professionally. Start by scheduling a free consultation with our Founder and CEO, Jeff Segal, MD, JD.

"Can Medical Justice solve my problem?" Click here to review recent consultations...

We’ve been protecting doctors from medico-legal threats since 2001. We’ve seen it all. Here’s a sample of typical recent consultation discussions…

  • Former employee stole patient list. Now a competitor…
  • Patient suing doctor in small claims court…
  • Just received board complaint…
  • Allegations of sexual harassment by employee…
  • Patient filed police complaint doctor inappropriately touched her…
  • DEA showed up to my office…
  • Patient “extorting” me. “Pay me or I’ll slam you online.”
  • My carrier wants me to settle. My case is fully defensible…
  • My patient is demanding an unwarranted refund…
  • How do I safely terminate doctor-patient relationship?
  • How to avoid reporting to Data Bank…
  • I want my day in court. But don’t want to risk my nest egg…
  • Hospital wants to fire me…
  • Sham peer review inappropriately limiting privileges…
  • Can I safely use stem cells in my practice?
  • Patient’s results are not what was expected…
  • Just received request for medical records from an attorney…
  • Just received notice of intent to sue…
  • Just received summons for meritless case…
  • Safely responding to negative online reviews…

We challenge you to supply us with a medico-legal obstacle we haven’t seen before. Know you are in good hands. Schedule your consultation below – or click here to visit our booking page.

 

Medical Board Complaint Case Study 4: Loose Lips Sink Ships. But Tight Lips Piss Off the Board.

To eliminate the risk of oversharing, a doctor may compensate by answering all questions as concisely as possible. He may limit his vocabulary to: “Yes”, “No”, “I don’t know”, and “The answer can be found in the records.”

The trap: The doctor has, without evidence, convinced himself a tight-lipped approach will protect his best interests…

The remedy: Strike a balance…

The safest option is often the median of two extremes. Volunteering too much information is a problem. Supplying too little information is just as dangerous.

Why? Reflect on the example we described earlier – the one about the doctor who insulted his patient. Why did he do it? Because he thought he befriended the Board’s representative. The doctor in this scenario has done the opposite.

He’s made an enemy of the Board’s representative, when the representative is neither his friend nor his enemy. The interviewer is a go-between. It is his job is extract information (facts) from the doctor and deliver that information to his overseers. Recall the point we just made: The Board exists to protect the best interests of the public. A doctor who supplies muted responses will likely be perceived as arrogant or uncaring.

By making an enemy of the investigator, you make yourself an enemy of the Board, and by extension the public. You don’t want to wear that crown. Schedule a free consultation to learn how we can help you prepare for such an interview.

"Can Medical Justice solve my problem?" Click here to review recent consultations...

We’ve been protecting doctors from medico-legal threats since 2001. We’ve seen it all. Here’s a sample of typical recent consultation discussions…

  • Former employee stole patient list. Now a competitor…
  • Patient suing doctor in small claims court…
  • Just received board complaint…
  • Allegations of sexual harassment by employee…
  • Patient filed police complaint doctor inappropriately touched her…
  • DEA showed up to my office…
  • Patient “extorting” me. “Pay me or I’ll slam you online.”
  • My carrier wants me to settle. My case is fully defensible…
  • My patient is demanding an unwarranted refund…
  • How do I safely terminate doctor-patient relationship?
  • How to avoid reporting to Data Bank…
  • I want my day in court. But don’t want to risk my nest egg…
  • Hospital wants to fire me…
  • Sham peer review inappropriately limiting privileges…
  • Can I safely use stem cells in my practice?
  • Patient’s results are not what was expected…
  • Just received request for medical records from an attorney…
  • Just received notice of intent to sue…
  • Just received summons for meritless case…
  • Safely responding to negative online reviews…

We challenge you to supply us with a medico-legal obstacle we haven’t seen before. Know you are in good hands. Schedule your consultation below – or click here to visit our booking page.

 

Medical Board Complaint Case Study 5: The Doctor Who Was Bribed

Let’s pretend the doctor-patient relationship has soured. Why? The doctor caught his patient selling her pain medication – the same medication for which the doctor has written multiple prescriptions for her. In response, he formally terminated his professional relationship with her. In response to his response, the patient flew to the Board with an abandonment complaint.

Just as the doctor starts to sweat, the patient calls his office and attempts to make a deal: “I’ll withdraw the complaint if your practice accepts me as a patient again.” The doctor is a smart cookie and reads between the lines. The patient wants more pain medication. The doctor compares the impending investigation against the comparatively “smaller” headache presented by the patient’s company. He decides she’s less offensive than an investigation and considers allowing her to return to his practice.

The trap: The doctor just allowed himself to be manipulated…

The remedy: Never take an action that could be perceived as trading something of value for the dissolution or withdrawal of a Medical Board complaint…

Put yourself in the shoes of this patient. You know the patient is untrustworthy on a sunny day. Once you prove to the patient that you can be manipulated, expect her behavior to go from bad to worse.

The smoking gun: By allowing the patient to return to your practice in exchange for a withdrawal of her complaint, you’ve engaged in a trade. The Board will not see a doctor who was bullied into a hard decision by a manipulative patient. They’ll see a doctor whose behavior can be bought. And the cost of that action could literally bankrupt you. If you are dealing with a manipulative patient, schedule a free consultation with us. We can help.

"Can Medical Justice solve my problem?" Click here to review recent consultations...

We’ve been protecting doctors from medico-legal threats since 2001. We’ve seen it all. Here’s a sample of typical recent consultation discussions…

  • Former employee stole patient list. Now a competitor…
  • Patient suing doctor in small claims court…
  • Just received board complaint…
  • Allegations of sexual harassment by employee…
  • Patient filed police complaint doctor inappropriately touched her…
  • DEA showed up to my office…
  • Patient “extorting” me. “Pay me or I’ll slam you online.”
  • My carrier wants me to settle. My case is fully defensible…
  • My patient is demanding an unwarranted refund…
  • How do I safely terminate doctor-patient relationship?
  • How to avoid reporting to Data Bank…
  • I want my day in court. But don’t want to risk my nest egg…
  • Hospital wants to fire me…
  • Sham peer review inappropriately limiting privileges…
  • Can I safely use stem cells in my practice?
  • Patient’s results are not what was expected…
  • Just received request for medical records from an attorney…
  • Just received notice of intent to sue…
  • Just received summons for meritless case…
  • Safely responding to negative online reviews…

We challenge you to supply us with a medico-legal obstacle we haven’t seen before. Know you are in good hands. Schedule your consultation below – or click here to visit our booking page.

 

Medical Board Complaint Case Study 6: What NOT TO DO When the Complaint is Warranted

Pretend a patient has propelled a complaint against you. The complaint specifies an egregious error in the prescription you wrote. Disaster was only averted because the pharmacist recognized the mistake. You know the mistake could easily be characterized as negligence. Your lawyer insists you be honest about this matter, and you agree. He also suggests you volunteer to complete training specific to record-keeping. You can see his point, but fear volunteering for this kind of training is an admission of incompetence.

The trap: The doctor’s ego is preventing him from suggesting remediation…

The remedy: Always be prepared to suggest remediation…

Should you follow your lawyer’s advice?

We say: Yes.

When the investigation eventually adjourns, the Board should look at you and see a doctor, not a potential future problem. That is your goal. Suggesting remediation proves you understand there was a real problem. It demonstrates you are already thinking about what you can do to make things right. Preventing a future problem. Offering such a remedy will likely help your case. And look – in this imaginary scenario, you are already being investigated by the Board. They already have reason to believe something went wrong. Your reputation has already been injured. You are on the defensive by default.

Your goal is not to “preserve” a spotless reputation, but “repair” a reputation that’s already been damaged. Volunteering for additional training demonstrates your commitment to fixing the problem and preventing future problems. What you volunteer to do will often be less painful than what the Board mandates you do.

If the Medical Board complaint levied against you was propelled by a bona fide error, don’t gloss over it. Be honest and suggest remediation.

Regardless of your circumstances, we close with this: When navigating a Medical Board complaint, you don’t have to walk alone.

Medical Justice is equipped to help doctors address Board complaints and a bevy of other medico-legal issues. We’ve been protecting doctors from medico-legal threats since 2001. We’ve seen it all. Schedule a free consultation with our Founder and CEO, Jeff Segal, MD, JD, to learn how we can help you address a Medical Board complaint – and a bevy of other medico-legal threats.

"Can Medical Justice solve my problem?" Click here to review recent consultations...

We’ve been protecting doctors from medico-legal threats since 2001. We’ve seen it all. Here’s a sample of typical recent consultation discussions…

  • Former employee stole patient list. Now a competitor…
  • Patient suing doctor in small claims court…
  • Just received board complaint…
  • Allegations of sexual harassment by employee…
  • Patient filed police complaint doctor inappropriately touched her…
  • DEA showed up to my office…
  • Patient “extorting” me. “Pay me or I’ll slam you online.”
  • My carrier wants me to settle. My case is fully defensible…
  • My patient is demanding an unwarranted refund…
  • How do I safely terminate doctor-patient relationship?
  • How to avoid reporting to Data Bank…
  • I want my day in court. But don’t want to risk my nest egg…
  • Hospital wants to fire me…
  • Sham peer review inappropriately limiting privileges…
  • Can I safely use stem cells in my practice?
  • Patient’s results are not what was expected…
  • Just received request for medical records from an attorney…
  • Just received notice of intent to sue…
  • Just received summons for meritless case…
  • Safely responding to negative online reviews…

Schedule your consultation below – or click here to visit our booking page.

 

Learn how Medical Justice can protect you from medico-legal mayhem… 

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Medical Justice Founder and CEO, Jeff Segal, MD, JD, provides consultations to doctors in need of guidance. 

Meet the Experts Driving Medical Justice

Our Executive Team walks with our member doctors until their medico-legal obstacles are resolved - we've seen it all.

Jeffrey Segal, MD, JD

Chief Executive Officer and Founder

Dr. Jeffrey Segal, Chief Executive Officer and Founder of Medical Justice, is a board-certified neurosurgeon. Dr. Segal is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons; the American College of Legal Medicine; and the American Association of Neurological Surgeons. He is also a member of the North American Spine Society. In the process of conceiving, funding, developing, and growing Medical Justice, Dr. Segal has established himself as one of the country’s leading authorities on medical malpractice issues, counterclaims, and internet-based assaults on reputation.

Dr. Segal was a practicing neurosurgeon for approximately ten years, during which time he also played an active role as a participant on various state-sanctioned medical review panels designed to decrease the incidence of meritless medical malpractice cases.

Dr. Segal holds a M.D. from Baylor College of Medicine, where he also completed a neurosurgical residency. Dr. Segal served as a Spinal Surgery Fellow at The University of South Florida Medical School. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa as well as the AOA Medical Honor Society. Dr. Segal received his B.A. from the University of Texas and graduated with a J.D. from Concord Law School with highest honors.

In 2000, he co-founded and served as CEO of DarPharma, Inc, a biotechnology company in Chapel Hill, NC, focused on the discovery and development of first-of-class pharmaceuticals for neuropsychiatric disorders.

Dr. Segal is also a partner at Byrd Adatto, a national business and health care law firm. With over 50 combined years of experience in serving doctors, dentists, and other providers, Byrd Adatto has a national pedigree to address most legal issues that arise in the business and practice of medicine.