Attorney Beth Collis quoted in Medscape article on Medical Board investigations

Attorney Beth Collis, of Collis Law Group LLC, was quoted in a Medscape article titled “The Dangers of a Medical Board Investigation: How to Protect Yourself”. In the article Ms. Collis addresses the 9,000 complaints that the State Medical Board of Ohio receives each year. “Many are minor or frivolous, such as allegations that the doctor or his staff was rude to the patient or family, billing questions, being forced to wait too long for an appointment, etc. The Board generally doesn’t take action in these cases and may not even inform the doctor of them.”

Ms. Collis also addresses how it is necessary for physicians to respond to Board investigations or inquiries. Ms. Collis warns physicians against ignoring inquiries from the Board, or from talking to the Board without counsel. “No complaint is too minor. Too many physicians think they don’t need a lawyer and can just talk the Board investigators into dropping the complaint. Doctors may sincerely want to help but they don’t understand the rules and pitfalls. They are often too chatty and explain things that weren’t even asked.” Legal counsel is recommended for any physician in connection with any Medical Board investigation or disciplinary action.

Read the article, written by Mark Crane, by clicking on the following link: https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/899247_2

As always, if you have any questions about this blog or the State Medical Board of Ohio, please feel free to contact one of the attorneys at Collis Law Group LLC at (614) 486-3909 or email me at Beth@collislaw.com.

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Ohio Physicians: Timely open and respond to all letters from the Medical Board

Keep your address up to date

As a physician licensed to practice medicine in Ohio, you are required (under R.C. 4731.281) to maintain your current accurate mailing address with the State Medical Board of Ohio. You may update your address online at: http://med.ohio.gov/UpdateAddress.aspx

The address on file with the Medical Board will be the official address that the Board will use to contact a physician if they become the subject of an investigation, or if the Board proposes to take a disciplinary action against a physician.

Certified Mail

If the Medical Board takes an action against a physician, they will be mailed a letter outlining the charges to their address of record with the Board. Under RC 119.07, the Notice of a Board Order shall be given by registered mail, return receipt requested, and shall include the charges or other reasons for the proposed action, the law or rule directly involved, and a statement informing that the party is entitled to a hearing if the party requests it within thirty days of the time of mailing the notice.

If you receive a certified mail from the Medical Board, it is imperative that you open it!  If the Medical Board has mailed a certified letter to a physician, it will include important information and often requires an action to be taken by the physician within a short period of time.

For example, if the Medical Board issues a Notice of Opportunity for Hearing to a physician, the physician is only provided with 30 days (from the date of mailing by the Board) to request a hearing. Failure to timely request a hearing may result in a board-ordered sanction, and the physician would be provided with no means to defend their case. The sanction takes the form of a Final Adjudication Order under RC 119.

Failure to cooperate in an Investigation

Failing to respond to a subpoena request or to respond to Interrogatory questions sent from the Medical Board may also result in a disciplinary action taken against the physician by the Medical Board. R.C. 4731.22(34) provides that failure to cooperate in an investigation conducted by the Board, including failure to answer a subpoena or order issued by the Board, or failure to answer truthfully a question presented by the Board in an investigative interview, an investigative office conference, at a deposition, or in written interrogatories, will result in disciplinary action.

Publication notification

If you fail to accept delivery of certain notifications, the Medical Board has the authority to publish the notification in your local newspaper. If any notice sent is returned for failure of delivery, the agency either shall make personal delivery of the notice by an employee or the agent shall publish the notice once a week for three consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation in the county where the last known address of the party is located. When notice is given by publication, a proof of publication affidavit, with the first publication of the notice set forth in the affidavit, shall be mailed by ordinary mail to the party at the party’s last known address and the notice shall be deemed received as of the date of the last publication.

Refusal of delivery by personal service or mail is not failure to deliver and service is still deemed to be complete. Therefore, it is important to keep your address up to date in order to accept all certified mail that is sent from the Medical Board. Be sure to carefully review all letters from the Board as they often include short timelines in which a response may be required.

If you have any questions about this post or the State Medical Board of Ohio, please feel free to contact one of the attorneys at the Collis Law Group LLC at 614-486-3909 or email me at Beth@collislaw.com.

How are decisions made by the State Medical Board of Ohio

I am often asked by clients, “Who makes the final determination as to the sanction that will be imposed against a physician at the State Medical Board of Ohio?”  In theory, this is a simple answer. The Board Members review all the evidence in the case and a vote of six members will result in a sanction against a physician. Alternatively, if the case does not proceed to a hearing, two members of the Board, the Board Secretary and Supervising Member review the evidence and offer terms for a settlement in lieu of proceeding to a hearing.

To make the appropriate determination as to the sanction that should be imposed, the Medical Board has Disciplinary Guidelines, which are posted on the Board’s website (http://www.med.ohio.gov/pdf/meddis.pdf) that outline appropriate sanctions for various violations of the Medical Board’s laws and rules.

In addition, the Medical Board is to review similar prior Board actions and make a determination that is consistent with similar sanctions that have been imposed in similar cases in the past. This is called following precedence.

However, this is all “In Theory”.  What we have seen in the past year is that the Medical Board has been reluctant to follow the disciplinary guidelines (they are advisory only, not mandatory) and the Board has been unwilling to follow prior Board decisions in imposing discipline against physicians.

This change can be based on a variety of factors. First, each year as Board vacancies open up, the Governor is charged with appointing new Board members. New members often come to the Board and look at cases differently than former Board panels.  This change can be refreshing as a shakeup in the Board makeup can bring fresh perspectives to the Board. However, it also leads to inconsistent results, and leaves members of the medical community unaware of how they might be sanctioned if they do violate a Board law or rule.

Recently, we have seen that if the case before the Board does not affect the physician’s medical practice (i.e. a conviction unrelated to medicine) that the Board members have been reluctant to sanction the physician. On the opposite end, if the case involves prescribing of pain medications or even minor violations of a prior Board sanction, the Board has been very punitive.

In this time of uncertainly, I still believe that you put your client in the best position before the Board if you provide the Board Members with as much information through the settlement or hearing process as possible. Board Members often complain that they do not have enough information about the physician to make a reasoned decision about their case. Therefore, I have found that while the Disciplinary Guidelines and prior case actions can be helpful in determining how the Board might proceed in any case, a recommended way to handle any case is to put as much information about the physician and their facts and circumstances about their case before the Board.  This might mean taking more cases to hearing than the Board has seen in recent years.  However, until the Board settles into a rhythm of making consistent decisions on similar cases, this might be the only way to effectively represent the client before the Board.

As always, if you have any questions about this post or the State Medical Board of Ohio in general, please feel free to contact one of the attorneys at Collis, Smiles and Collis at 614-486-3909, check out our website for more information at www.collislaw.com or email me at beth@collislaw.com.

Medical Board Investigators Carry Guns Now?

I recently learned that Ohio Medical Board investigators now carry hand guns while on the job. I had heard that the Board was considering allowing their investigators to carry firearms, but recently I learned first hand that an investigator had entered a private medical practice carrying a firearm.  I find this practice intimidating and unnecessary.

Isn’t it intimidating enough when an investigator appears in the medical office or hospital, often unannounced, flashes his credentials and demands to speak with the physician (who is most often seeing patients) and then requests to immediately see and take original patient files? My question is, why must they also carry a firearm?

I went back to the Board’s minutes to review the Board members’ rationale for this decision. In August 2011, the Board reviewed the issue of investigator safety. Of course, I found that this new aggressive move by the Board comes down to the heightened investigation of pain clinics in Ohio. The argument was that pain clinic waiting rooms may be filled with patients, who may be also carrying weapons.  The Board members were advised, on occasion, investigators were confronted with people hanging around the parking lots and “drinking alcohol” and on one occasion an investigator’s car was blocked by another car and they could not leave the parking lot. http://www.med.ohio.gov/pdf/Minutes/2011/08-11minutes.pdf

Based on concern for the safety of the investigators, the Board members approved a policy that would require investigators to undergo a minimum of 40 hours of training at the Ohio Peace Officers Academy and obtain re-certification annually.

I would never want to put the lives or safety of the Medical Board investigators at risk. However, we have a trained police force available in Ohio that investigators can call at any time for assistance. In addition, if the investigator has reason to believe that they are going into a dangerous area, they can always alert the local police in advance and even have an officer accompany them to their appointment. However, to allow an administrative board investigator to carry a firearm after simply 40 hours of training into all medical offices for all appointments is intimidating and unnecessary for the overwhelming majority of investigations conducted.

As always, if you have any questions about this post or about the State Medical Board in general, please feel free to contact me at beth@collislaw.com or call me at 614-486-3909.

What to do if contacted by a Medical Board investigator

In my practice I receive calls each week from nervous and frightened physicians who have been contacted either by telephone or letter from a Ohio Medical Board or even Pharmacy Board investigator.  The question I am always asked is:

Do I have to talk with the investigator?

First, never speak with an investigator without competent legal counsel. Anything you tell an investigator can be used in a disciplinary action against you by your licensing board and/or by the police in a criminal investigation.

Depending on the facts in your case, sometimes I advise clients to speak with investigators or to provide a written statement to their licensing board regarding an alleged complaint. However, I never have my clients meet with investigators without legal counsel and I never allow my clients to submit written statement that I have not had a chance to review.

Also, don’t allow the investigator to set the timing for when you will respond to them. I am often contacted by nurses who have been contacted by an investigator from the Ohio State Medical Board and advised that they need to meet with the investigator or submit a written statement to the investigator within 24 or 48 hours.  These deadlines or almost always negotiable. Do not allow the investigator to rush you into providing them with the statement until you have had a chance to meet with legal counsel.