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Accusations of Wrongdoing Can Harm Your Practice Even if You’re Innocent

by  |  Physician Practices

Physicians are taught from the time they start medical school to avoid getting charged with medical malpractice or any other accusations of wrongdoing. Good physicians and employers put practices in place to minimize these accusations. Nevertheless, they do happen.

Findings of wrongdoing can certainly harm a doctor’s practice. However, even mere accusations of wrongdoing can hurt you and your practice–even if it turns out you are truly innocent of the charges. This can be an extremely stressful experience for doctors. Read on to learn about how even baseless allegations can have long-lasting consequences for physicians.

Requirements of the Physician and Accusations of Wrongdoing 

If you have a license issued by the state–any sort of license–you are given that license in exchange for the public being able to trust you. Therefore, you are held to a higher standard than other members of the public. When there are accusations of wrongdoing, it is a serious matter and often will be investigated, even if you are known as a trustworthy person.

In Georgia, complaints can be made by individuals or anonymously. Although the boards reserve the right to pursue or not pursue anonymous complaints, those can be taken seriously if there is enough evidence. 

After that complaint is received, the board has broad power to investigate those claims. They will hold hearings and, if applicable, discipline the doctor. This could include public reprimands, probation or suspension, or even a revocation of a license.

If you are innocent and ultimately vindicated, you will not face any of these consequences. However, the accusations of wrongdoing alone could cause you and your practice significant harm and must be taken seriously from the moment you are accused.

Top False Allegations

Physicians can be the victim of multiple false allegations. Here are some of the most common ones:

  • Medical malpractice
  • Abusing hospital admission privileges
  • Medical malpractice
  • Abusing drugs or alcohol
  • Financial fraud
  • Insurance fraud
  • Medicare/Medicaid fraud
  • Crossing Lines With Patients
  • Terminating Patient Relationships Without Cause

Sometimes, a patient might legitimately believe that there was an instance of wrongdoing but blow it out of proportion. Other times, unfortunately, a person might file a complaint out of spite. This could be from an angry ex-spouse, a jealous colleague, or an angry patient.

Why You Aren’t “All Good” as Long as You Are Innocent

In an ideal world, innocent people would never even face charges, let alone suffer any consequences. Unfortunately, even physicians who are completely innocent of allegations of wrongdoing can suffer profoundly. Vindication at the end might not erase the allegations. Here is what might happen to you following false charges of wrongdoing.

  • You Might Be Removed From Your Post Immediately

When an accusation comes in against a physician, the first thing that a practice is thinking about is the potential impact on the institution. Their job is to put patient concerns at the center of their practice. Therefore, even if a hospital is confident that a patient complaint is bogus, a healthcare provider might be removed from taking care of patients immediately. While this is a personnel matter, others within or outside of the practice may find out or deduce the reason for the physician’s absence, leading to chatter about his reputation.

  • Talk Spreads Fast

Unfortunately, things that should stay confidential can sometimes leak out. The accused physician might experience extreme social and reputational stigma. This could harm the physician down the road if he decides to switch to a different practice, as he might not be hired even if the charges were ultimately unfounded. The investigation might also affect his personal life, causing him to withdraw from certain social situations because of loss of reputation.

  • Doctors Can Experience Stress and Lack of Confidence

Even if a physician is completely certain that they are innocent of the charges, an investigation can cause an incredible amount of stress. They might be concerned that the investigation will side with the patient even if there is no evidence. Even if they are sure that they are innocent, they may have a lack of confidence in their practices. This could hurt them down the road when they do return to employment or could cause them to leave the practice of medicine completely. 

  • Online Reviews Can Cause You Headaches

Patients are empowered more than ever to give feedback about their experiences with doctors. While this can be helpful to other patients who are seeking healthcare and can help keep physicians who act poorly accountable, it can punish innocent people. Oftentimes, a disgruntled patient can write a review that is completely baseless. If other prospective patients see this–even if it is not true–they might decide not to become a patient.

  • And…You Could Still Lose Your Job

Review the terms of your physician employment contract. Many employment agreements include language that permits a hospital or employer to fire a physician for vague reasons such as the physician acting in a way that is detrimental to the hospital’s reputation or character. If a newspaper acts on a tip from a patient–even if it turns out to be false–it can bring a lot of negative attention to the employer. The employer, keen to take the heat off of it, might just decide to fire the doctor. Even if it turns out that the physician was truly innocent, that damage might already be done.

Hire a Georgia Physician Defense Attorney

Do not wait until your employer concludes their investigation to get representation for medical license defense. By then, it might be too late. A seasoned physician defense attorney can help speed up investigations, provide evidence to preclude investigations, and put procedures in place to help you avoid being a target of false allegations in the first place. Getting an attorney does not make you look guilty; it will help you be prepared.

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