I just had the absolute pleasure of walking out of a meeting with the medical board investigators. I thought I would share my experience with you guys and tell you what I did well and what I did wrong as a physician
I definitely feel like a criminal coming out of there. Not like I stole some printer paper from work but more like Bernie Madoff. The interrogation ended with them accusing me of theft and lying and that they will be “in touch”.
Setting Up The Medical Board Investigation Interview
I only got a 4 day notice for the medical board investigation interview. No instructions on what to expect, just that I needed to show up to a specific location to appear before the medical board.
They made the email sound as if I was going to be appearing in front of the medical board. In fact, I wasn’t going to be in front of the medical board at all. Instead, I was meeting with a gang of investigators.
I found out later, after hiring a lawyer, that this was unnecessary and that I should have refused.
It Was Staged Strategically
I got a name badge and was greeted by the lead investigator. The scene was out of a movie, staged to intimidate the shit out of me.
During the medical board investigation interview they were sizing me up and down like we’re about to get in a fist fight. I walked into the conference room and saw another behemoth of a man standing there with arms crossed at the entrance. He also started to size me up and wouldn’t introduce himself and was just staring at me.
We walk into the conference room and I realize right away that I got tricked. I was expecting to meet with the member of the medical board – nope.
I was sure that I had read the email correctly but later I reviewed it and the wording was just sly enough to make me think that I was gonna be sitting in front of the board.
We sit down. The 3 guys across from me with notepads, stern as fuck. I realized right away what was going on. Fortunately I had been in this situation once before during an FBI investigation of some Russian mobsters who had stolen my medical license in Los Angeles.
Tell Us About Yourself
During the medical board investigation interview the investigator asked me to talk a little about myself. He literally said “tell us about your upbringing”. Odd question but I started off and assumed the question was meant to have me drop my guard.
They had me talk about my medical licenses in other states. They asked about any laws I may have broken in the past. They asked if I ever used my work computer to get on porn websites (one of the accusations by the nurse who reported me to the medical board). And if I had ever used my work computer for personal use.
The main interrogator is super intense and as soon as I make eye contact with the other 2 guys, he immediately raises his voice and gets more intense in his talking to focus my attention back on him.
They keep this up for a while, asking me simple person questions and throwing in a few questions about whether I had ever done drugs, ever broken a law, ever been trouble with any legal or board entity.
Tell Us About The Incidence
When you’re after the truth, you present the facts that you’ve collected and ask the person to expand on the missing links. But when you’re trying to pin something on someone during a medical board investigation interview then you have them just talk as much as possible and find ways to poke holes in their story. You start taking apart every single sentence.
I did just that. I retold the story involving the nurse, the person who had the test done, the other individuals involved. That’s when they started attacking me. I definitely felt naked without a lawyer during the medical board investigation interview.
The Initial Attack
The initial attack was led by the lead investigator. He would repeat certain statements of mine and ask me how accurate they were. “Did it happen exactly like that or was it more like this?”
He then proceeded to tell me that I have no credibility because the story he gathered is completely different from what he obtained after talking to “multiple” individuals.
And he said this with some force – his face turned red, he was spitting and his eyes were scanning my eyes for a reaction. For whatever reason this got me a little agitated but I caught myself before answering. I looked down for a minute and remember focusing on the oak desk we were sitting around. I calmed down, looked up, and said “okay” to let him know that I had heard what he said.
I realized I had fucked up by trying to explain my actions during this medical board investigation interview. I swallowed some backed up loogie and got ready for the very angry lead investigator.
He tried a different approach. He started asking me super detailed timeline questions as to what time and what dates I did what. When did I work with the company? When was I investigated by my own medical group? When did I resign?
He then went on the full offensive one more time backhand slapping his notebook saying that the dates I’m giving him were obviously wrong. Not just mistakenly wrong but intentionally falsified.
I didn’t give him much room there, I let him empty his saliva onto the desk and after he collected himself I looked around the room and acknowledged his dismay with my recollection and told him that I had no reason to falsify those dates and that they were accurate.
The Little Guy Wanted A Shot
The 3rd guy started overacting his role and his tactic was to pin a patient-doctor relationship on me. He was also trying to make it seem that I had an inappropriate relationship with this woman.
He threw words in like “you escorted her to the urgent care” and “since you ordered the test on that patient”…
When it was my turn to speak I always took the opportunity to correct him and that she wasn’t “my patient” and that I never “ordered a test”.
He then tried a new approach to incriminate me and kept putting words in my mouth. I corrected him when I could but without a lawyer there, all you can really do is try to stay afloat.
The 3rd guy had his say though he was so annoyingly condescending and calm that I couldn’t wait to stop having to make eye contact with him.
The guy to my right tried to sit as tall as possible in his chair and informed me that it was a privilege that I was given a license by the medical board to practice medicine. And because of this privilege they had the right to investigate “lies” and “theft”.
Emphasis on privilege.
He informed me that they didn’t believe what I had said and that at this time my “theft” and “lies” were going to hurt me a lot once this information was presented to the medical board. And that I had a final opportunity right here, right now to come clean and tell us what really happened.
There is nothing you can say in such a situation. I nodded and we ended the interrogation. Honestly, I was disgusted by such human beings.
Lawyer up. If you care about your medical license then I think it would be wise to have a lawyer sitting next to you for such hearings. Their job is to take the questions asked and rephrase them so that they aren’t incriminating. They will tell you what you should answer and what you shouldn’t answer.
Don’t rely on your colleagues. It’s not that your colleagues will intentionally throw you under the bus. But they don’t know what the investigation is about and will say the things that the investigators want to hear because they are asked questions out of context. The story the investigators got from my colleagues and shared with me was shockingly wrong.
The medical board is out to get you. Every medical-legal article that I’ve come across regarding the medical board investigation interview repeats the mantra that the medical board is there to represent the public and out to get the doctor. They aren’t after the truth, they are out to close the case as soon as possible.
The medical board has a lot of power. You don’t get to tell your story to the members of the medical board. Instead, the investigators tell them their interpretation of the events. They can subpoena records, interrogate coworkers, and they can always catch you in a lie. A lie is anything that isn’t factual based on their finding.
Your employer will not protect you. During the medical board interview process I found out that the investigator had gotten a lot of records from my own medical group’s internal investigation. None of the facts that was presented to me from that internal investigation was favorable.
Don’t blame others, you are 100% responsible. I can see how someone like myself could come out of this and feel like a “victim”. You are not a victim. You made certain decisions and others made certain decisions and the outcomes of those decisions crossed paths into the lap of the medical board. The medical board investigation interview is there to find flaws and problems to paint you as a perpetrator. It’s important to take responsibility and learn something from it even if the process seems unfair.
Don’t resign during an investigation. I made the big mistake of resigning from my medical group while their investigation was going on. The investigators were quick to point out that this made me seem incredibly guilty.
Have more than 1 income source. My medical group took me off of my shifts when they did their own investigation of this situation. There was nothing egregious about the situation in question. Regardless, that was enough for my medical group to take me off of my shifts. If I had to apply for new jobs during this time then I would have to disclose the investigations. But if you already have other gigs then you aren’t obligated to let them know until a final decision is made on your case.
How To Avoid Something Like This
I will start by saying that I made the mistake of getting involved in this woman’s care. Even though there was no bad outcome at all, it wasn’t my place to do so and nobody could have faulted me if I didn’t get involved.
Therefore, I have 100% fault in creating this problem for myself.
Maintain The Patient-Doctor Relationship
I think the best way to avoid such headaches is to not clinically involve yourself unless the patient is on your schedule.
Once you have entered the patient-doctor relationship then the worst thing it can become is a medical malpractice investigation. Your insurance carrier then assigns you a lawyer and unless certain criteria are met, the case would have little merit.
When you work for a medical group then you become the custodian of their resources. Just because the patient check-in process doesn’t matter to you or relates to your job as a clinician, it’s implicit in your hiring and medical licensing that you must protect the resources of the medical group you work for.
If a patient receives a service from your clinic without them paying for it then it falls on you, not the nurse, and not the front desk person. Your job isn’t to audit the fee collection of your clinic but if you don’t take adequate steps to ensure they pay then it’s theft. I believe that’s the “theft” that the investigators are referring to in my case.
As a healthcare professional, your license entitles you to offer your medical opinion to an individual who has entered the patient-doctor relationship with you. If you give your opinion or advice to a person without having established that relationship then you are breaking the agreement with your licensing board.
It is acceptable to advise a patient to see a doctor. According to the investigators, you cannot tell the person that they would benefit from an x-ray, an EKG, or any other testing. By doing so you would be stepping beyond your legal boundaries.
The Best Things To Do Right After The Interrogation
The best thing to do right after you finish your medical board investigation interview is to go watch a movie. Write down a few facts so you remember them but don’t talk to anyone, just go watch a movie and decompress.
Realize that the worst thing that can happen is that you get a huge fine, you get some jail time, and that you lose your medical license. This may sound horrible but it’s not.
Your case will be different from mine and jail time, fines, and losing your license may be real possibilities. But you as a human being are much more than your license, some fines, and a few months spent in cell-block D.
I hope that you identify yourself by who you are as a person, who you are on the inside, and your relationship with those you love. You’ll make mistakes and maybe you’ll be busted for something that you personally don’t think warrants an investigation. But in the end, no matter what happens, you are you.
If you are unhappy with who you are now before you ever get investigated then whatever the outcomes, even if favorable, you’ll be an angry little dude. But if you are a genuine person who is willing to learn from their mistakes then you’ll come out with some scars and some life lessons.