Responding to Medical Board Complaints
Painful though it may be, imagine going through your mail one morning and finding a letter from the Arizona Medical Board. You open the letter and your eyes become fixated on the first paragraph that reads:
Pursuant to A.R.S. §32-1451(A), you are being notified that the Arizona Medical Board received a complaint and an investigation has been opened to determine if further review is required. Attached is a copy of the complaint in its entirety. Nothing is required of you at this time. Should the investigation merit further review, you will be contacted by an investigator to provide a written detailed narrative and any other necessary information.
Criticism and allegations are hardly welcomed feedback from patients. But the reality of clinical practice is that patients often find reasons to complain despite one’s best efforts to provide good care.
Perhaps find solace in the fact that a typical physician might receive one of these complaints only every few years. You can also find solace in the Board’s notice that nothing is required of you at the time and that a large percentage of complaints are dismissed without an input from the doctor accused.
Imagine now receiving a follow up letter. This time you’re told that an investigation has been opened. You are now asked to provide a complete narrative response to allegations made against you. You’re further told that: “A medical consultant will review the underlying records.”
This letter is likely to incite additional anger, fear and a defensive response. Don’t let these emotions drive your response. Instead, remember these tips in formulating a response:
- Accept the fact that a response is necessary.
- Cool off and avoid responding while those emotions prevail.
- Recognize the value of a good response.
- Make sure relevant information about the case is available. You will need to provide a factual account of what happened, and pulling and reviewing your files may take time.
- Recognize and appreciate the benefit of consulting someone with knowledge, expertise and experience of handling these matters before the Board.
- Get help. If there are allegations of damage as a result of your alleged conduct, notify your insurance company or legal advisor as soon as possible. They will undoubtedly assign counsel to make sure the response is prepared properly.
Physicians should be able to resolve the matter of a formal patient complaint with minimal agonizing. The key is to take a systematic and careful approach so that one can prepare a carefully worded letter that meets the deadline, includes a factual account of what happened, does not speculate and addresses the patient’s specific complaint.