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Avoiding patient complaints, lawsuits and administrative hearings

Doctors and other medical professionals understand well how a patient complaint can quickly spiral out of control. Patient complaints may result in numerous negative consequences, administrative hearings, discipline, revocation of licenses and medical malpractice lawsuits. Such factors are not entirely out of the control of a physician, and the key may be in avoiding complaints altogether.

Excellent communication helps many New York health care providers avoid circumstances that lead to discipline or malpractice proceedings. Helping one's staff improve communication skills with patients is critical to ensuring patients have reasonable expectations and fully understand the policies of one's practice. Important communication includes explaining procedures, following up with patients and keeping accurate records of interactions with patients. Training on such matters is available from various professional organizations, including the Federation of State Medical Boards.

If a medical professional does face a patient complaint, it is not something he or she should ignore or dismiss. Responding to the board within the required time is the first step to protecting one's license. A response may include an explanation of the event in question along with relevant documentation to support a doctor's defense. A successful initial response may end in the board dismissing the complaint, which may benefit the physician if the patient pursues a lawsuit.

Having the counsel of an attorney is critical, especially an attorney with experience assisting medical professionals during administrative hearings and medical malpractice claims in New York civil court. An attorney can guide a physician in formulating a response and preparing a strong defense. The skill of one's counsel can certainly improve the chances of retaining one's license and continuing in the practice of medicine.

Source: aappublications.org, "How to prevent, respond to a complaint to state medical board", John W. Rusher, M.D., J.D., FAAP, March 2, 2018

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