Every profession has paperwork you never want to see. In health care, a letter from the state licensing board is a serious matter that might put your career on the line. Every public-facing job experiences customer feedback, but a patient complaint to the board is nothing to take lightly.
It’s true that few doctors are disciplined by their state boards, but when it happens, it can damage reputation, future opportunities and more. All letters are equally serious, whether the complaint is about medical treatment, billing or professional conduct.
Making the argument
One vital step is to hire an attorney. Many doctors worry that hiring an attorney makes them look guilty. This is far from the case. In fact, it’s likely the board will have their own staff attorney. As a professional organization, it’s essential to have professional representation. A National College of Physicians article titled “4 Things Not To Do At A Medical Hearing,” emphasizes that “Trying to represent yourself” is one of the biggest mistakes a professional can make. A personal attorney will defend you, while if you utilize your insurance provider, they are likely to let their own interests influence the case.
One risk in self-representation is sharing the wrong information. When defending yourself against claims of unprofessional conduct, for example, it is possible to reveal information about medical services that may draw the board’s attention. Similarly, attorneys are skilled negotiators who understand the appropriate facts to reveal and what not to share. An easy-to-relate-to board member may persuade a doctor to share information that was unnecessary for the hearing. When talking among professional peers, it is easy to lose focus and vent about frustrations of the job instead of emphasizing the specific case before the board.
While patient complaints may be one-sided or unfounded, a disciplinary hearing is always a serious matter. With such high stakes and an unfamiliar setting, you can level the playing field by hiring an attorney to represent you. It is not a sign of guilt, but a sign that you are dedicated to your profession and that you wish to defend yourself amid serious allegations.