Board Investigation: Beware, Prepare & Prevail
Clinical Update August 2014
By Zur Institute
DID YOU KNOW:
- The probability of being investigated by a state licensing board is relatively small (still much higher than being sued).
- Many board complaints are never investigated. If the board decides that the complaint has no merit or decides not to investigate for other reasons, you may not know that a complaint was ever levied against you.
- The duty of the board is to protect the public and regulate the profession. When operating with integrity and decency, the board serves an important and valuable function in society.
- While the board may be friendly, they are not your friends; they are ‘friends’ of the public and the protectors of consumers of mental health services.
- Boards mostly respond to complaints by clients. Initially, they do not know your story; all they know is what the client has alleged.
My extensive experience over many years as an expert witness and forensic consultant has repeatedly shown me that with preemptive actions (i.e., good clinical work, adequate records, insurance and consultations) and informed competent response (i.e., good attorney and expert team to guide you), most clinicians can avoid, effectively fight back, and survive a board complaint.
What To Do Today – Before You Are Being Investigated
- Make sure that your malpractice insurance includes coverage for investigations by boards as well as the standard malpractice coverage. (This can give you a huge advantage in mounting a defense against often financially strapped licensing boards.)
- Preempt a board inquiry by consulting with experts on difficult cases before the board comes knocking on your door. (See Dr. Zur’s consulting services.)
- Make sure that your Clinical Forms (most importantly, your Informed Consent for clients to sign at the onset of therapy) are updated. (See Essential Clinical Forms.)
- Keep good records including documentation of your treatment plans and ethical decision-making regarding clinically and ethically complicated situations. (See online course on Record Keeping.)
- Be extra careful not to have a forensic dual role in custody issues and be careful and strategic with clients diagnosed as BPD.
- Learn how to conduct ethical risk management. (See online course on Risk Management.)
11 Rules of What NOT to Do When You Hear From the Board<
- Don’t ever take a board investigation lightly and don’t ignore board inquiries.
- Don’t assume that your innocence will soon be acknowledged.
- Don’t respond to a letter from the board unless you have consulted with an attorney (who may write the response on your behalf).
- Don’t contact the client who filed the board complaint.
- Don’t turn any material over to the board without first getting legal advice.
- Don’t ever meet with the board investigator without legal representation.
- Don’t ever discuss anything with a board investigator without legal representation even if they unexpectedly show up at your office.
- Don’t alter the records or create new documents in the record.
- Don’t assume that lack of harm to client or patient will end the board inquiry.
- Don’t talk indiscriminately to anyone who would listen.
- Don’t threaten to sue the person who filed the board complaint.
Do’s: What to Do When You Hear From the Board
- DO contact your malpractice insurance carrier.
- DO contact a knowledgeable and experienced attorney immediately.
- DO help your attorney identify top expert/s in your specific area of need.. (As an example, see my expert consulting page and CV.
- DO be active in your defense.
- DO prepare for the long-run and focus on self-care.