The governing environment in which physicians and surgeons operate is complicated, confusing, and ever-changing. Since the Medical Board of California is tasked to guard the public, it investigates misconduct claims against medical practitioners as well as vigorously imposes discipline. If you think you will be or have been contacted by an investigator or the board, it is paramount to seek legal representation immediately. At San Diego License Attorney, we can offer you advice when applying for a professional license as well as during investigation, administrative hearing, and disciplinary action.
Understanding the Role of the Medical Board of California
The Medical Board of California (MBC) is the state government authority that licenses medical experts, investigates surgeons and physicians who break the Medical Practice Act and recommends the experts for rehabilitation and evaluation when suitable.
The primary mission of the board is serving the public by protecting it from unprofessional, incompetent, and inadequately trained physicians. The board realizes this by making sure only qualified surgeons and physicians are licensed to practice, and those medical experts offer patients with top-notch care.
Any experienced professional license defense attorney understands the mandate of the board. They also know how easy it can be for exaggerated or false accusations to be brought against you. A patient with unrealistic expectations could wrongly blame you on the grounds of the outcome instead of on your performance or even confuse the duties of various categories of medical experts.
Additionally, like any person, you may be struggling with alcohol or drug addiction or make a mistake. Your attorney should assist you to have the license application approved, protect the license against a revocation, citation, or suspension, or get the license reinstated.
Common Complaints and Complaint Review Process
The MBC receives over eight thousand complaints every year from sources like patients, insurance providers, family members, and other medical experts. These complaints include:
- Gross negligence or negligence when administering health care
- Alcohol or drug abuse (sometimes the allegations involve use of alcohol or drugs while working)
- Incompetent care (it can be as a result of operating outside your expertise's boundaries or within your practice area)
- Health coverage fraud like billing for services not offered, over-billing, or double-billing
- Over-prescribing or prescribing medication to the wrong patient
- Permitting an unlicensed junior to work with you
- Dishonest or poor record-keeping
- Sexual misconduct
- Previous criminal convictions or arrests significantly linked to the ability to offer high-quality care
Once a complaint has been filed, the Central Complaint Unit should review it to confirm whether you violated the law governing medical practice that calls for further investigation. Here is a summary of how the CCU reviews a complaint and determines if it ought to be taken to the district office for investigation.
To review a complaint, the board will ask for the patient's medical record's copies and a summary from you together with other necessary information like a record from the subsequent treating medical expert. When the CCU reaches you for a response, a written summary of your accusations will be presented to assist you in responding correctly. If you want to request the complaint summary from MBC, you should direct the request to the Central Complaint Unit and then mailed to the MBC.
Once the CCU receives all the relevant information, the case is progressed to an expert who reviews it. The expert should have the training, expertise, and education to analyze the standard of care the complaint raises. The expert should check if you departed from the standard of care when offering treatment and care.
In case no violation is found, the case is closed and filed for a year. And should a simple departure be found, the case could be closed and is recorded for 5 years from when your case was closed. In case CCU closes a complaint, both you and the complainant will be informed in writing.
Should the expert decide the complaint require more review, the allegation is forwarded to the board's district office. An investigator will contact you to schedule an interview. The interview gives room for a thorough review. Additionally, the complainant or other witnesses could be interviewed.
Once the investigator collects the relevant information, an expert reviewer should conduct another review.
After the investigations are completed, both you and the complainant will receive results notification.
As mentioned earlier, if the Central Complaint Unit determines you have broken the terms and conditions of your license, your case will be referred to the board's district office. The MBC will then check if there is a need for an administrative hearing. If there is, a formal allegation is filed.
You are entitled to challenge the allegations made against you. If you do so, the Office of Administrative Hearing will schedule and conduct the administrative hearing. An administrative judge will preside over your case, decide, and present the decision of the MBC in writing. Then the MBC will review the decision and determine the disciplinary action.
You have thirty days to request the decision to be reconsidered. And if you disagree with the verdict after the reconsideration, you can file an appeal in court.
So, what takes place after a closed compliant? Rarely a complaint against a medical practitioner is closed, and accusation remains confidential after investigations. If the complaint is closed, the MBC will maintain your file for 5 years, with a few exemptions, to make sure you the crime doesn't reoccur.
What are the Different Disciplinary Actions Imposed?
Depending on the seriousness of the offense, the MBC may take several disciplinary actions against you. It is worth noting that most of these actions will be accessible on the Medical Board of California's official website, together with the allegations against you. That means the public can access the allegations.
The disciplinary actions include:
Violation but No Disciplinary Action Taken
It happens when the board concludes that although you violated the Medical Practice Act, you will not be punished. Typically, this takes place after input from an experienced professional license defense attorney.
Usually, this happens when the board has determined through investigations in which your attorney has proved that the claims in the complaint against you do not present a violation of the Medical Practice Act. A perfect example is when there is no sufficient evidence to establish an offense in a hearing.
In this case, the case is closed with administrative action. Also, the punishment isn't available on the MBC website.
Misunderstanding stemming from requests for medical records or billings are some of the complaints that the MBC staff resolve between a health care professional and the patient.
Since the case doesn't show a violation, following a fruitful or failed mediation, it is closed with administrative action. It remains confidential to the public.
Letter of Warning
A case originating from your minor infraction that does not harm the public could be resolved using the disciplinary action in question. The letter highlights the law, the allegations, and cautions you if the facts are correct and recurrent you risk facing an official disciplinary action.
For instance, an advert in which you don't include your license number, the case is closed without you receiving punishment. The case isn't available on the website.
Enforcement review following expert review and investigation occurs if possible offense associated with the compliant confirms departure from the standard of care took place. The board determines that it won't forward the case to the Attorney General for filing. Usually, this is a result of an evidentiary issue or other limitations like a situation where the expert discovers that although you complied with the standard of care, there is an issue about the medical treatment offered.
Here you could participate in a review of the complaint. The review is a one-on-one dialogue on the issue. It is worth noting that although review participation is voluntary, it should be done with the assistance of a professional license defense lawyer.
Additionally, these complaints are closed with administrative hearing and are kept confidential.
Letter of Public Reprimand
Once the MBC brings an accusation where the violation against you is minor, and nobody has been hurt, a reprimand could be issued in case the State Board License Defense attorney has presented a strong defense. The defense could include:
- An overview of your allegations
- Courses you should take
- The indecency of your conduct
- Terms and conditions in the MBC disciplinary guidelines
Once the board brings an allegation of a minor violation and
- No person is injured,
- You have no prior disciplinary record, and
- Corrective action could close your case,
the board could reach a stipulation provided your attorney has established a satisfactory defense.
For instance, you use the wrong billing code, and then an insurer reports you to the board demanding compensation. The board could require you to:
- Undergo as well as pass insurance billing programs
- Have a billing monitor for the practice for some time
Then the MBC will withdraw your case after you have met the mentioned above requirements.
Since the stipulations are well-thought-out to be disciplinary action, your accusation, the stipulation, and withdrawal of allegations are made available on the MBC website.
The board's published decision to put you on probation could be reached as an order by the administrative law judge (ALJ) following a hearing or due to a stipulation. Only a qualified license defense attorney can realize these resolutions best.
You can find probation terms in the MBC Disciplinary Guidelines.
In this case, your license is withdrawn for a while. If you fail to adhere to the probation terms and conditions, you could face professional license revocation.
Like most disciplinary actions, probation will be made public.
If suspended, you should not refer to yourself as a licensed surgeon or physician or practice medicine. The public can access this disciplinary action information.
Interim Suspension Order
Usually, an interim suspension order is given if the board considers you to have formerly or will most likely engage in conduct, which could threaten public welfare, safety, or health. The MBC requests an administrative hearing to suspend your practice. Should the ALJ grant the request, you should cease your practice immediately.
Moreover, the attorney general could file an interim suspension order in Superior Court in case there is an unclosed case in file. The MBC should bring a claim within fifteen days from the date the interim suspension order was issued. And a hearing should be held before thirty days. These disciplinary actions are made accessible to the public.
Stipulation to Surrender License
Instead of taking your case through a hearing, you can decide to surrender your professional license. Any skilled license defense attorney won't recommend this move unless a comprehensive analysis and review of the benefits and risks is done.
The stipulations could or could not have charges to the claims in your accusation. However, you are supposed to confess in case of a petition to reinstate your license. You should wait for three years before you can pursue reinstatement.
A revocation is the loss of your professional license resulting from a hearing in a severe case. You should wait for three years before attempting to reinstate the license.
Revocation is a disciplinary action and will be available on the board's website.
A Citation and Fine
If you have committed a minor violation, the MBC may choose to issue a citation that comes with fines. The disciplinary action will be accessible to the public for three years.
Practical Defense Strategies Against a Disciplinary Proceeding
Your defense lawyer should be able to develop comprehensive strategies in your defense. These strategies should be designed to meet your case needs. Depending on the case, the defense strategies may include:
- Requesting to meet the Attorney General or board's investigator handling the case to present proof which will refute the allegation or reduce the disciplinary action
- Engaging an investigator who interviews witnesses, obtain computer metadata, evaluate the scene or evidence, and subpoena necessary records
- Engaging experts in the accusation
- Crafting a rehabilitation plan in case chemical dependency is a problem or if emotional or mental rehabilitation is required
- Helping you collect mitigating documents as a way of preparing for the hearing or supporting a rehabilitation package
California Medical License Reinstatement
If your license was revoked, you could have a chance to reinstate the license after probationary time elapses. Usually, license reinstatement is designed to prove your good conduct throughout the probationary period and participating in the rehabilitation defined by the board.
If denied reinstatement, you can request a hearing before an ALJ to present your good conduct evidence. That is where a competent licensing lawyer can make a difference between you having your license back and failing to practice medicine again.
Discussed below is a step-by-step guide on the reinstatement process:
- Determining Eligibility
If you have been found guilty of an offense, the qualification required is the completion of your term or termination of probation or parole. Any awaiting disciplinary action disqualifies you.
Next, you should check if the reinstatement petition could be brought per Business & Professions Code section 2307. The list below is the waiting period for different kinds of a petition for penalty relief:
- Three years for reinstatement after punishment on the grounds of unprofessional conduct
- Two years for early termination of a three-year probation
- One year for violation of probation conditions, termination of probation that does not exceed three years or reinstatement after punishment based on physical or mental impairment
- Prepare and Bring the Petition
You are required to submit a Petition for Penalty Relief form to the board alongside:
- A narrative explaining the circumstances that led to the punishment and rehabilitation, why you are filing the petition, what you have been doing to earn money since your license was surrendered or revoked, how rehabilitation will stop a repetition of the misconduct, and practice plans after reinstatement.
- Two recommendation letters from licensed medical experts who know of your conduct since the disciplinary action was imposed
- A resume or curriculum vitae
You can also submit:
- A board certification
- Drug programs or criminal probation completion proof
The MBC will forward your petition to an investigator. The investigator will contact the medical experts who wrote the recommendation letters and then interview them to validate the statement. The interviews are conducted at the nearest MBC office. If the physician does not reside in California, the interview is conducted via telephone.
- Administrative Hearing
MBC doesn't settle reinstatement petitions. A hearing is held before the Deputy Attorney General.
During the hearing, the board's lawyer presents your original accusation, disciplinary action, and the petition for penalty relief. You should also submit witness testimony. Also, you should issue all new documents since your petition was brought like a conviction expungement at the administrative hearing.
Your testimony should focus on your rehabilitation. It will make the board confident that terminating probation or reinstating your license won't compromise public safety.
Get a Knowledgeable Medical License Defense Attorney Near Me
As a physician or surgeon, the preservation of your medical license is your priority. Any matter that threatens your license should be taken care of using the best solution possible. The MBC listens to all complaints and imposes disciplinary action ranging from revocation, citations, and suspension of your license. That means your livelihood, career, reputation, and future could be at stake, and you can't afford to have anything less than an attorney working for you. At San Diego License Attorney, our legal team can bring many years of experience to your help. We can take suitable action to make sure you get the best possible resolution to your challenges. To book your initial consultation, call us at 619-728-7448.