With thousands of medical professionals facing complaints to the TMB each year, the critical question emerges: How can you safeguard your reputation and avoid being reported to the TMB? While the question may seem straightforward at first glance, the reality is more complex.
At Gardner Employment Law, we specialize in helping medical professionals navigate the complex landscape involving Texas Medical Board complaints. Contact us today if you’re concerned about TMB issues or facing an ongoing inquiry.
Why Are Physicians Reported to the TMB?
Various factors can lead to TMB scrutiny. Patients and family members file complaints with the TMB ranging from invoices to true acts of malpractice. I had a client who failed to properly supervise his staff. A patient reported unprofessional conduct by the physician’s nurse practitioner. My client did not take the complaint seriously enough, since he knew that the nurse was competent in the medical sense. However, the TMB investigation did not end until my client was forced to sign an Agreed Order requiring him to carry out a number of steps to ensure that he reorganized his practice and more closely monitored the particular nurse when meeting with patients. This cost my client considerable time and money.
According to the Texas Medical Board, the most frequent complaints involve issues related to standard of care, professional incompetence, unprofessional conduct which may endanger the public, and inability to practice medicine by reason of mental or physical impairment.
Medical Malpractice: The accusation of medical malpractice is at the forefront of reasons why physicians are reported. This includes not just surgical errors but also misdiagnoses and faulty treatment plans. Patients who believe their conditions have worsened due to a doctor’s intervention (or lack thereof), often file these complaints. The implication is not only a question mark on the doctor’s skill but also potential legal repercussions that can result in license revocation or suspension.
Fraudulent Billing: Another significant issue that brings physicians under TMB scrutiny is underhanded billing practices. This involves financial irregularities such as upcoding services or charging for services that are not rendered. Fraudulent billing not only brings legal issues but also significantly tarnishes a physician’s reputation, making it difficult to practice medicine effectively or even continue in the field.
Professional Misconduct: The healthcare setting is not just about medical care; it is also a workplace. Professional misconduct like harassment, abusive behavior towards staff, or inappropriate relationships with patients can trigger TMB complaints. Such complaints question the character and ethics of the physician, and sanctions can range from mandatory counseling to more severe penalties.
Documentation Errors: Even simple mistakes like poor record-keeping can lead to problems. Incomplete patient histories, ambiguous or unclear treatment plans, and lack of documented informed consent can result in complaints. These errors can seriously compromise patient care and also serve as evidence of negligence or incompetence in any subsequent legal proceedings.
Avoiding TMB scrutiny is a multifaceted endeavor that goes beyond clinical expertise. For more information on Texas Medical Board reporting, read our explanation in “TMB Reporting Requirements.”
Tips to Avoid Being Reported To The TMB
Knowing the primary reasons why physicians can be reported to the TMB will help you take proactive measures to avoid such scenarios. Here are four key tips that correspond to the common triggers mentioned above.
Prevent Medical Malpractice: One of the most effective ways to avoid being reported for medical malpractice is through continuous learning and application of best practices in patient care. Ensure that you consult with peers, review cases meticulously, and always seek a second opinion if you are uncertain. Up-to-date knowledge and thorough patient consultation can significantly reduce the risk of malpractice claims.
Maintain Transparent Billing Practices: To steer clear of fraudulent billing complaints, invest in robust accounting and billing software that flags potential issues. Regular audits and staff training can also ensure that everyone is compliant with ethical billing practices. Transparency in financial dealings will build trust with patients and regulatory bodies alike.
Promote Professional Conduct: To avoid reports of professional misconduct, you should build a culture of respect, empathy, and understanding in your clinic or practice. Training programs focusing on workplace ethics, sexual harassment, and effective communication can equip your staff with the tools they need to maintain a professional atmosphere. Unlike my client’s approach described above, you must make sure your staff knows best practices, and you need to monitor and train them accordingly. Your staff members reflect the standards of your medical practice.
Adopt Rigorous Documentation Procedures: Documentation errors can be easily avoided by implementing strict protocols for record-keeping. Utilizing electronic health records (EHR) and regularly auditing patient files can ensure completeness and accuracy. Staff training to reinforce the importance of meticulous documentation can further safeguard against this type of TMB complaint.
By implementing these targeted strategies, doctors can proactively mitigate the risks of being reported to the TMB, allowing them to focus on providing excellent patient care.
As practical advice, it will serve you well to maintain patience and be a good listener when interacting both with patients and staff. Even though you can short-circuit the patient’s extended explanation, take the time to listen without interrupting and give the patient your undivided attention. Build rapport. Don’t sit with you back to the patient while you focus on your computer monitor. Patients who like their physicians rarely file complaints with the TMB.
The TMB Enforcement Process
Even if there is an unfounded complaint filed against you, take it seriously. In Texas Medical Board Lawyer, we outlined the multi-layered process that will necessarily take place after a complaint is filed. The process can involve several stages, each with its own requirements and potential outcomes. If a complaint is filed with or a report is made to the TMB, you will be forced to respond. You will be involved in an investigation until the TMB decides to end the process. The process will consume valuable time that you could have spent in your practice.
Understandably, defending one’s professional licensing is a significant aspect of the entire review process. The TMB is not just looking for violations but assessing your overall ability and moral fitness to practice medicine. This is where the standard of care and familiarity with administrative law become incredibly important. Knowledge and understanding of the Medical Practice Act is also vital for your license defense.
The possibility of disciplinary action looms throughout the TMB investigative process. You may face penalties ranging from mandatory retraining to a revocation of your license to practice, depending on the severity of the violations found.
Knowing the TMB enforcement process and its nuances can better equip you to avoid being reported to the TMB in the first place. Being proactive about your medical professional responsibilities, from being educated to the greatest extent to adhering to the highest standard of care, can significantly reduce the risk of finding yourself entangled in this complex legal web.
Contact a TMB Expert
Navigating the regulatory maze of the Texas Medical Board can be a challenging and often stressful experience, especially when your career and reputation are at stake. From understanding the key reasons that lead to TMB reporting to implementing effective strategies to prevent such incidents, you need legal guidance.
At Gardner Employment Law, we advise physicians on how to maintain an unblemished record and mitigate risks associated with TMB complaints. Consulting an experienced TMB defense attorney will help you understand the reporting obligations and how to avoid being reported to the TMB. If you want to learn more about how to avoid being reported to the TMB, feel free to call.