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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Failing to request a hearing can be a very costly mistake.

Today, I attended the monthly meeting of the State Medical Board of Ohio.  I was surprised to see that in all six cases handled by the Board, the licensees had failed to request a hearing.  Despite the fact that the Board may impose any sanction, ranging from dismissal to permanent revocation of a license, in each case where the licensee failed to request a hearing, the Board either revoked or permanently revoked their licenses.

The Board Members expressed concern that if these licensees had not requested a hearing or attended the Board meeting, these licensees were not interested in maintaining an Ohio license.  Therefore, the Board revoked their licenses.  By failing to request a hearing, the Board is often left with unanswered questions.

Often, professionals will tell me that do not want to request a hearing or appear before the Board because they have already submitted documentation in support of their case and they believe they have, “no other information to provide to the Board”.

Failing to request a hearing can be a very costly mistake.  There is no more powerful information than the personal testimony of a license holder.  Boards typically like to see that an individual understands the gravity of charges against them, that the individual accepts responsibility for their conduct, that the individual expresses remorse for their conducts, and how the individual will handle a similar situation in the future.

Often, I find that cases appear to be far more serious on paper and that once testimony is provided from the licensee and by those who support the licensee, the Board is able to have their questions answered and view the case in a much less serious light.  In some instances, I have also seen that the sanction the Board imposes after a hearing is less harsh than the Board was contemplating prior to the hearing.

Failing to request a hearing can be a very costly mistake.  It is recommended that a licensee request a hearing and to present testimony in your defense.  If you want to retain your medical license, you need to fight for it.

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

Physicians should never examine a patient without a chaperone present

When examining a patient, a physician should always have a chaperone present in the room.  The policy of the Medical Board has been to require a chaperone in the room when examining a patient of the opposite gender and when examining a patient in intimate areas of their body (such as a breast or vaginal examination).

However, after representing physicians before the Medical Board for nearly twenty years, I recommend that physicians have a chaperone present in the room during any patient examination. The chaperone is there to witness the examination. The chaperone represents the physician.

Often, I have had physicians tell me that they do not have a chaperone in the room because the patient brought a parent, spouse, friend or child with them to the examination. This is a mistake. If the patient alleges inappropriate conduct on the part of the physician, the friend or family member will not defend the physician and will support the statements of the patient.

Often, physicians tell me that they do not have the staff support to have a chaperone with them at all times when examining patients. My advice to them is that they cannot afford to NOT have a chaperone present.

If a complaint is made to the Medical Board by a patient that a physician touched them in an inappropriate manner during a medical examination, the Medical Board will open an investigation. The investigation can span many months or even many years (there is no statute of limitations for a Medical Board investigation).  Without a chaperone present to testify on behalf of the physician, it is a simply a case of “he said – she said”, which is difficult for a physician to defend.

Patients have also been known to file police reports and to press criminal charges against physicians for conduct that took place during an examination, as well as filing civil law suits against physicians.

Physical examinations can be intimidating, embarrassing and occasionally uncomfortable for patients. It is always best to continue to explain to the patient what is taking place during the examination to alleviate their fears and concerns. However, it is also imperative that the physician have a chaperone present in the room to observe the conduct of the physician AND the patient.

The name of the chaperone should also be noted in the patient’s file as evidence that they were present during the examination. It is also recommended when conducting examinations of patients in a hospital setting to have a floor nurse present in the room during the examination.

As always, if you have any questions about this post or the State Medical Board of Ohio in general, please contact one of the attorneys at the Collis Law Group, LLC (formerly Collis, Smiles & Collis, LLC) at 614-486-3909 or contact me at beth@collislaw.com.

Are you resilient enough to be a physician?

As most physicians will tell you, it takes a lot more than understanding chemistry or being a good test taker to be a good physician. It takes being willing to work hard, being able to face adversity, and staying calm in a crisis situation. It takes being resilient.  I often wonder if medical students and medical residents are being challenged and taught the appropriate skills to be an accomplished physician.

In my practice, I represent physicians who are being investigated by the State Medical Board.  I also regularly represent residents who face discipline in their residency program or who are seeking licensure for the first time.  For most of my clients, an investigation in their practice by the State Medical Board may be the first time they have ever been questioned by a person in authority or “called on the carpet” for their actions.   Based on this new experience, it is interesting how they react.

A Board investigation is an incredibly stressful time for the physician. Their entire professional livelihood is on the line and any discipline that is imposed by the Board will have significant ramifications to their job, hospital credentialing status, third-party payor status, board certifications and may affect other state licenses.

Investigations by the State Medical Board do not have a statute of limitations and, once the Board starts an investigation, it is not limited to just the scope of the complaint.  The Board may review all aspects of the physician’s practice. In addition, while conducting an investigation, the Board can order the physician to undergo a chemical dependency evaluation or a mental or medical evaluation to determine if they have a condition that may affect their ability to practice medicine.

In order to get through a Medical Board investigation, the physician needs to be patient, cooperative and still maintain the same level of professionalism in their practice while seeing patients. This calls for resiliency on the part of the physician.

Physicians hold patients’ lives in their hands. They need the intelligence, executive function skills, and downright grit to maintain their composure in an ever-changing medical field. So, before entering medicine or if you are a practicing physician, I think it is important to consider .. are you resilient enough to be a physician?

As always, if you have any questions about this post or the State Medical Board of Ohio, please feel free to contact me at (614) 486-3909 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.