The Virginia Board of Medicine
The Virginia Department of Health Professions is comprised of 14 regulatory boards, including the Board of Medicine. The Board of Medicine has the power to license, regulate, and discipline physicians. Its mission is to protect the public. Its mission is not to help, assist, or represent physicians.
Who Can File a Board Complaint?
Anyone can file a complaint. When a complaint is made, the Board of Medicine will investigate. You will be notified of the complaint and investigation, usually by letter or telephone. When you receive such a notice, it would be prudent to notify your insurance carrier (you may have coverage for the investigation) and/or a lawyer. A lawyer familiar with the Board of Medicine can help you navigate the system and work to achieve a good result, given the circumstances of your case. In our experience, you would be well served by retaining an attorney who represents clients in Board of Medicine matters before talking or meeting with an investigator. Many physicians handle an initial investigation on their own, sometimes thinking the complaint is not serious. This can have unforeseen negative consequences. In our opinion, there is a better chance for a more favorable outcome when you retain counsel at the outset and have representation early in the investigation process.
Board Investigation Process and Possible Disciplinary Action
An investigator will investigate the matter and report to the Board. The Board will determine if there was likely a violation of any law, regulation, statue or standard of practice. If the Board of Medicine determines there is probable cause to believe there was a violation, you will be noticed for a hearing before 2-3 Board members and Board of Medicine staff. At the informal/special hearing you will be questioned about the allegations in the Complaint and you may present evidence. At the conclusion of the hearing, the committee will issue its findings and render a decision. Many conferences result in disciplinary action. Discipline can include: continuing medical education, a reprimand, terms and conditions on your license, probation, a fine, or referral to a formal hearing.
When final, most discipline is reportable to the Healthcare Integrity and Protection Data Bank (HIPDB) and the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB). You will also likely have to disclose the sanctions on applications for medical malpractice insurance, privileges, and to practice in other states. Discipline may also lead to investigations by health care plans and insurance companies, and you may lose your DEA registration. You may also need to report the discipline to Medicare/Medicaid.
Board of Medicine Formal Hearing Process
If you appeal or the Board of Medicine refers your case to a formal hearing, that is a more adversarial, trial-like proceeding. It will be held before at least five Board members and the Commonwealth will be represented by an Assistant Attorney General. Subpoenas may be issued and evidence and witnesses may be presented at the hearing. At the formal hearing level, the committee can take the same discipline as noted above; your license can also be suspended or revoked.
A formal hearing result can be appealed to circuit court but the court will only determine whether the Board of Medicine committed an error of law. The court relies on the record provided by the Board of Medicine for factual matters. If there is substantial evidence on the record to support to the Board’s decision, the court will affirm the final order.
Board discipline is public record. It is available to potential patients, particularly through your online profile, and as noted above is reported to the NPDB, other jurisdictions, and may require other disclosures. Effective representation by an attorney who represents clients before the Board early in the process can often help you achieve a better result and possibly avoid discipline.