It seems that in the past few months the universe has been testing my commitment to my career. I mentioned in a recent post some trouble I was having with HR at Kaiser Permanente, where I have been working since 2009. And more recently I got to deal with some workplace bullying.
This story started out as an internal investigation by my medical group and seems to now has lead up to a medical board investigation.
I didn’t find out until later (I’m editing this post now, 11/2019) that Kaiser Permanente reported me to the medical board. I was floored by this – couldn’t believe they report me for something so ridiculous.
This post is meant to highlight how easy it is to have your medical career turned upside down by a medical board investigation.
For those who are interested, I have written a lot more about the outcome and process of my medical board investigation. Which eventually led to a 30-day license suspension and having to go to court and getting terminated by every employer, including the telemedicine companies for which I worked.
Of note, this was not a clinical case. This was considered an “ethical” issue or a “professionalism” issue. Read on to learn more.
A Nurse Got Fired
This whole situation happened because a union nurse got fired. To retaliate, she reported me to Kaiser Permanente who was forced to investigate the matter with me.
This is the nurse whom I asked to perform an EKG on a colleague. Little did I know that it would lead to her getting fired and me getting investigated by 3 different state medical boards.
Unfortunately, she told a lot of lies which created a much bigger investigation. She said that I yelled at her at work, that I forced her to do the EKG, that I do drugs, that I watch porn at work, and that I come to work drunk.
Each of these accusations resulted in lots of headaches for me in the future which I had to later defend.
Let me start out by saying that I was 100% responsible for what happened. I made a mistake. If I didn’t make the mistakes I made, none of this would have taken place.
I took a colleague over to the Urgent Care at Kaiser Permanente in order for her to have an EKG. I did so with good intention – I don’t think she would have otherwise gotten the EKG done. She had already put it off for some time.
But I didn’t go about it the right way. I was thinking about the individual as a human being. I didn’t view her as a patient. This entire process taught me about the patient-doctor relationship and the Medical Practice Act.
Never knew about these things before.
My employer tried to contact me for 5 months, supposedly. Even though I returned all phone calls and emails within hours of receiving them, HR later reported me to the medical board as holding up the internal investigation.
I didn’t even know that there was an investigation or what it was concerning until HR and legal finally got on the phone with me. They asked me questions, specifically addressing the accusations that this nurse had come up with.
I was out of the country during this time which hurt me a lot. If I had been present in person during the internal work investigation process then I could have talked to leadership and supervisors and kissed enough ass to not end up on the butcher block.
Attractive, Young, Female Patient
The patient (my colleague) in question was an attractive young female. I worked with her at a medical marijuana clinic outside of Kaiser. I was still moonlighting at KP so I had access to the Urgent Care.
She asked me where she could get an EKG done that her doctor had ordered. I told her she can do it at my Urgent Care where I worked.
When we walked into the Urgent Care and she saw the line of waiting patients she wanted to leave. I didn’t think that was a good idea and tried to expedite the process by taking her over to the nurse station and asking if we could get an EKG done – I was hoping to entice her to check in after this part was done.
The reason I mention that my colleague on whom I got the EKG was a young, attractive woman is because this later came into play. The medical board tried to spin it as thought I did all this to have sex with her – this part was a disaster to deal with.
Not Documenting the Visit
The reason the nurse got fired was for not documenting on the person she did the EKG on. We never created a chart on the patient because after the EKG was done the patient decided to leave – she didn’t want to check in.
I didn’t make any effort to get her to stay – I didn’t feel that it was my job.
The nurse claimed to supervisors that I yelled at her and threatened her – forcing her essentially to perform the test.
Because my colleague was getting this EKG to take it back to her own holistic doctor (who didn’t have an EKG machine), I didn’t feel that I was taking over her care by ordering this EKG.
But later on the medical board claimed that by ordering the EKG I entered the patient-doctor relationship. Which meant that I needed to have done an exam on her, created a chart, and made sure that I had follow up with her.
Leading up to a Medical Board Investigation
I am surprised that a whole medical board investigation ensued from Kaiser Permanente reporting me. Shit, I’m shocked that KP reported me. I can’t even describe in words the amount of work I put into my career at Kaiser.
Looking back, I think it was valid for the medical board to pursue this. Call me up on the phone or maybe bring me before the medical board and genuinely ask about the circumstances.
They could have pointed out to me that there is thing as the “Medical Practice Act” and a legal definition of a patient-doctor relationship.
I could have said “oh fuck, my bad” and we all could have moved on. I could have contacted the patient to have her come in. To check in, document the visit, read the EKG and everything would be gravy.
Instead, this medical board investigation led to me losing all of my per diem gigs, getting terminated by medical boards, having my professional record ruined, it left the patient even more disgruntled with western medicine, it took a solid doctor out of practicing medicine, it caused an insane amount of expenses for me in lawyer fees.
In no way did I benefit from this. The medical board didn’t benefit. Patients didn’t benefit.
I’m writing some this commentary now, November 2019. This event started unfolding May 2017. And it’s far from over. I had 3 state medical licenses and have had to deal with each medical board separately.
A medical board investigation can take a very, very long time to come to and end.
Both my employer and the medical board investigation tried to tease out whether I had a sexual relationship with this woman who got the EKG done.
They tried so desperately to pin that on me. It was disgusting but my lawyer warned me about that. Fortunately we saw it coming.
In my mind the who thing was absurd. In fact, even if I fucked the shit out of this woman, if we had a threesome in a dirty ass hotel room, there would have been nothing wrong with that because she was never my patient.
Of course, the medical board decided that she WAS my patient. And so any interaction I had with her was now under scrutiny.
Of course this ended up going nowhere for the medical board. After they were done fucking with me, they eventually questioned the patient who was a married woman and set them straight.
Drugs & Alcohol
There were also a lot of questioning regarding drugs and alcohols by the investigators. The lies the nurse made up sparked this part of the investigation.
Look, if you think I’m an alcoholic or druggy, test me. They could have immediately sent me in for a drug test. But they didn’t. The investigators were just fucking with me.
My reputation as a physician is so damn solid and I’ve had such a good track record that they were just pulling on strings to see what they could unravel.
The investigator tried to tease out in his inquiry letter to me as to whether I had a patient-doctor relationship with that woman. I have since learned the line is quite blurred and it’s easy to end up on the wrong side of it.
I admit that I was a little butt-hurt that my employer assumed the same. I felt that my 8 years with my employer would have been worth something. However, I have since learned that once you go from full-time to per diem then you are more of a liability than an asset.
Again, the only finger that I’m pointing is at myself. I am 100% to blame for not making it clear beyond a shadow of a doubt that my role was nothing more than moral support at the Urgent Care for my colleague.
Think about it, someone else gets to decide if you entered a patient doctor relationship. How fucking weak and useless do you feel as a doctor when you can’t even be the one to decide if you want to be a patient’s doctor.
Contacted By The Medical Board
The medical board tried for months to contact me regarding this case. They sent multiple letters to my work at Kaiser Permanente. Sadly, nobody bothered checking my mail and sadly, the medical board didn’t bother calling me or sending the letters to my home address.
Eventually, after the deadline passed, I was contacted by the medical board no the phone – odd. A very upset investigator called me up and asked why I hadn’t replied to him.
I gotta say, I had no idea who the fuck he was or if he was even legit. I was overseas when he called me and I gave him a fuck-ton of attitude on the phone.
After I hung up with the investigator I called a friend at work right away and he checked my Kaiser mailbox – nothing there. I found out later that my mail was moved, for an unknown reason, to someone else’s mailbox.
The Investigation Letter
The very first time I learned about this is obviously the phone call I received from the medical board investigator. I then got a chance to sit down and read the letter.
I was shocked that this internal investigation by my employer had now escalated to a full on medical board investigation.
The letter was professional and short. It outlined what to expect over the next few months and there were 5 specific questions which were asked in order to help clear up the situation.
My Response To The Medical Board Investigation
Unfortunately, I was anything but cooperative when it came to this medical board investigation. My lack of insight into the process bit me in the ass, hard.
I can’t stress this enough, if you are caught up in something like this, you have to know exactly how to proceed. And you need to have a plan right away.
I’m happy to report that I have since helped a lot of doctors handle their medical board investigations. And this makes me feel great because it’s my way of getting back at the medical boards and make money doing it.
I should have gotten a lawyer right away because I was naive to the situation. Instead I replied and was as vague and uncooperative as possible.
It wasn’t out of spite. Rather, I never viewed my colleague as my patient and the accusations the nurse made were absurd enough that they could have all been negated with a couple of phone calls from the investigators.
Over the next few months, the medical board investigator who was assigned to me did his very best to make life hell for me and he won.
Had I cooperated right away I could have prevented a lot of what happened next.
Lessons Learned From my Medical Board Investigation
1. Fear the Patient-Doctor Relationship
The most important lesson I learned is that I either have to be someone’s acquaintance or their doctor. If I blur those lines then I could be mistaken as someone’s doctor which comes with a ton of responsibilities.
I say fear it because it’s something you have to do when you see a patient in the clinic. But why in the hell would you want this kind of legal relationship if you’re not getting paid for it.
2. Advise but Don’t Butt In
The second lesson I learned is that I shouldn’t have gotten myself overly involved. I took my colleague to the Urgent Care, that was enough. I shouldn’t have gone up to the nurse and butted in.
I could have been a great resource for my colleague without trying to be their doctor.
3. Be Professional
So in a way I had already checked out of medicine. I didn’t feel the need to be all that professional with the medical board investigator.
Even if you never plan on practicing medicine, as long as you have that medical license, you have to treat it with respect and professionalism. It will reflect nicely on you and you won’t have regrets later.
4. Emotionally Detach
During this process I got a little butt-hurt which wasn’t wise. I should have handled the matter without emotional involvement. Assuming that my job owed me some loyalty was a little childish on my part.
They give the same advice to doctors who are going through a malpractice case. They say, don’t get emotionally involved – it’s just a legal process.
5. Get a Lawyer
I thought of lawyers so negatively that I didn’t want to contact one. Or maybe I was cocky, or maybe cheap.
But I later learned how supportive a good lawyer can be. My lawyer whom I hired to represent me in Oregon was fabulous. I learned a lot from him.
6. The Medical Board Has All the Power
I falsely assumed that it’s impossible to lose my medical license because of this medical board investigation. The board can take any action they like and the financial burden of contesting their decision would rest on my shoulders.
The medical board can be petty, they can be unprofessional, they can make up lies. They can do whatever the fuck they want.
7. Fight the Board
Don’t be afraid to go toe to toe with your state medical board. You’ll need a bulldog lawyer for this. But don’t be afraid of them to the point of not taking any action.
If you feel that you are in the right, fight it and fight it hard. But know that it will cost you a lot of money.
Over the past few years many physicians have contacted me on this website about their own investigations. Some have spent nothing on lawyers, many have spent $25k, many have spent $100k, and some have spent as much as $400k.
The Right Kind of Lawyer
This isn’t easy to address here. But if you have a simple case then a “medical license attorney” is all you need. That’s your keyword to use for an online search.
If you have the kind of case where you need to find, consider a “criminal attorney”.
Read your lawyer’s blog page. If they don’t have one it doesn’t mean that they are bad. But you’re going to want to get referrals.