Understanding the anatomy of a state board investigation

Understanding the anatomy of a state board investigation

Aug 30, 2009
Kansas City -- Dissecting a state-board investigation can go a long way to easing the fear and stress that often accompanies a consumer complaint, says veterinary legal expert Doug Jack, LL.B.

In fact, if he had one goal for his presentation at CVC Kansas City, it's to debunk some of the myths that accompany a state-board investigation.

For most veterinarians, the experience is personal, emotional and very stressful.

"I want veterinarians to gain familiarity with the process, understand the roles and work through the process in an objective way," Jack says. "The reality is that you can do the best job possible and still have a bad result."

Any state-board inquiry or investigation follows standard procedures. If a state board receives a complaint, it is obligated to investigate because of its charter to protect consumers.

Here's how it works: 1. The practitioner will receive notification that a formal complaint was filed with the state board.

2. During the investigation, the board gives the veterinarian the opportunity to respond to the complaint. The correspondence should remain professional, objective and focused on the allegations, Jack says.

3. Pre-hearing resolution: Sometimes the consumer complaint can be resolved without taking it to the next stage.

4. Formal hearing: This is the time when the board listens to the evidence and expert witnesses on both sides. Ultimately, the board will decide whether or not the case has merit.

5. Penalty phase: If the practitioner is found guilty, the next phase is to issue a reprimand which can range from continuing education to revocation of the DVM's license.

Each stage, brings new challenges, Jack explains. While veterinarians should always consult with their attorneys, it's important to keep in mind that bad outcomes do happen in the delivery of veterinary care. Try not to respond with emotion if a complaint is filed. Be objective and factual, he says, and remember that a majority of complaints are resolved without a formal hearing.