How to Avoid Ten Common Mistakes Responding to the Maryland Medical Licensing Boards
By Neal M. Brown and Nicole A. McCarus
OUR MEDICAL LICENSE IS your livelihood and every inquiry from a licensing board is a “big deal”. Licensing boards have almost unfettered authority to investigate, prosecute and impact your ability to practice medicine in Maryland. How you respond to a board inquiry, no matter how innocuous, may have substantial and long-term ramifications. Licensing boards may initiate an investigation based on a specific complaint or other information. Investigations usually begin with a request for the factual circumstances surrounding the complaint, a subpoena for records, or access to patient records. The board may seek an interview (informal or under oath) or refer the matter for formal charges. Failure to answer board inquiries may lead to disciplinary action or formal charges. Maryland boards are empowered to revoke or suspend medical licenses, as well as to reprimand or place a licensee on probation. Boards are required to report disciplinary actions to the National Practitioner Data Bank, which hospitals consult regarding staff privileges, and which insurance carriers check for provider eligibility. The provider who mishandles a board complaint risks adverse financial and professional consequences. The importance of responding appropriately to a board complaint or request cannot be overstated. Based on our experience, we have summarized common mistakes healthcare professionals make following receipt of a board complaint or inquiry. We also offer these recommendations to help avoid adverse outcomes. Neal M. Brown is founding partner of and Nicole A. McCarus is a partner at Waranch & Brown, LLC: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
1. “It’s no big deal.”
Do not dismiss the allegations as frivolous, meritless or an outright fabrication by the patient. Treat correspondence from the board seriously, requiring your immediate and thoughtful response.
2. “I don’t need to involve my insurance carrier in this matter.”
Review your professional insurance policy and contact your agent to evaluate the situation.
3. “I don’t need an attorney to respond to this complaint.”
Do not contact the board to discuss the complaint without first contacting legal counsel. Promptly provide your attorney with all pertinent information, and do not omit significant details with the hope they will not surface later.
4. “I’ll get to it when I can – there’s no rush.”
Highlight the due date for the response immediately on the calendar, and request an extension if necessary.
5. “I’m sure I can work it out with the patient.”
Consult counsel before discussing the matter with anyone; if approached for comment, politely decline. This ensures that your lawyer is able to protect your legal rights whenever possible.
6. “I can just correct the patient’s chart.”
Do not alter, modify, destroy or dispose of records. If errors or omissions in the original record exist, you may supplement, but only in accordance with previously established recordkeeping guidelines. Clearly note the date and reasons for any supplement, amendment or addendum, and produce the original record.
7. “The patient was not harmed, so the board cannot find against me.”
Do not make assumptions based upon the patient’s outcome. Discuss with your attorney whether there is a valid defense to the allegations.
8. “I messed up. I should just admit it and get this over with.”
It may be appropriate to express concern for the patient. However, consult with your attorney to discuss defending or mitigating your care. Even where an admission of fault is the only option available, the best possible terms should be sought before a concession.
9. “The board is full of health professionals so I don’t need to explain the medicine.”
In your response, inform board members of any unique aspects of the case involving your practice or specialty. It may also be helpful to include citations to medical references or support from consulting physicians or experts.
10. “I’m so angry, I can’t see straight!”
Take time to think through your response. Be factual, precise, respectful and cooperative.
This article is not intended to constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship, but is intended for general information only. An attorney or other resource should be consulted regarding individual cases.