Every healthcare professional should take medical board hearings seriously. The individuals who sit on medical boards are charged with maintaining the high standards of conduct and practice required by the State of Illinois and its people who deserve quality health care. When patients believe that they received inadequate care, believe the physician was negligent, made an egregious medical mistake, or committed medical malpractice, that patient has every right to file a complaint with the state medical board. In many instances, patients file complaints on their own, without consulting with a knowledgeable professional about the merits of their complaint. Meritorious or not, the state medical board has a legal duty to follow up and investigate the claims of misconduct, even if the majority are summarily dismissed.
Taking prompt action is important if a letter of inquiry is received from a state medical board.
Just has the state medical board has a duty to investigate complaints, the health care provider has a duty to cooperate and respond to the regulatory agency, such as the medical board, and provide the answers and documentation required to complete the investigative process. The absolutely worst thing a health care professional can do is ignore the medical board. Failure to respond to the initial letter you receive from the state medical board can be discipline-worthy. In a recent article on point, a representative of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Responsibility (IDFPR) stated, “Some physicians don’t reply or reply late. But this is your livelihood, your career.[i]”
The failure to respond to a state medical board inquiry letter may set the stage for a formal medical board hearing, if there is not a hearing scheduled by the board to otherwise take action on the result of the initial investigation.
There are common pitfalls to avoid when preparing for a medical board hearing.
At the medical board hearing there are pitfalls to avoid, ensuring best results. Representing yourself is a mistake and may be regrettable. Providing inadequate documentation and losing, your manners and candor can also hurt your case and credibility in a hearing before the medical board.
When doctors represent themselves before the medical board at a conduct hearing, they run the risk of causing more harm and difficulty than had they hired a health law attorney to represent them. Your attorney will consider the facts you represent to them in light of the hearing process and are best able to succinctly provide facts and evidence to the board without being overtly defensive or offering more information than necessary to complete the hearing investigation. A health care professional facing a conduct hearing should consult with and hire a private attorney specifically experienced in health care and medical malpractice.
State medical boards often ask for documentation of specific incidents and reports on patient care to assist them in reviewing the complaint against the physician. Even if there is a general request to submit all documentation supporting the individual’s responses to questions in the inquiry, more documentation is always better. It is preferable to show diligence through multiple documented sources than to appear to lack the necessary written documents to support a physician’s assertions and responses to a complaint.
Certainly, it is important not to act aggressively or otherwise emotionally disconnected before a medical review hearing board of professionals expecting professional decorum from the doctor subject of the investigation. People whom generally over act or raise their voice or behave offensively, are seen as less credible and possibly untrustworthy. Remaining calm and patient with the review board is important to establishing credibility, which is important. Candor before the board is another reason it is important to hire a lawyer for representation before the board.
Michael V. Favia & Associates and the Illinois Professional Licensing Consultants advise and represent health care professionals with licensing and professional regulatory matters, including hearings before state medical review boards.
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[i] Medscape Business of Medicine, 4 Things Not to Do at a Medical Board Hearing, by Anne Finger, MA, Mar. 13, 2014.