A family physician was sanctioned by her state’s Board of Medicine for prescribing an antibiotic over the telephone in 2012. The incident occurred while the doctor was working for a telemedicine company. At that time, state law required that patients be seen in person before a prescription could be ordered.
The law has since been changed to allow telemedicine consultations, but the sanction’s impact on the physician continues.
Because of the sanction, the American Board of Family Medicine decided to review the doctor’s board certification. If her board certification is revoked, she will be unable to work as a locum tenens physician for the Veterans Administration or in other Western states where she is licensed.
The state board demanded that she take an ethics course and pay its investigative costs and legal fees. In order to do so, she had to sell her house and is $200,000 in debt. She also has been barred from treating any Idaho patients via telemedicine, now legal in that state.
Contrast the above with a Jacksonville, Florida case. In 2013, a doctor had his license suspended for a year because of an alleged affair with a patient and recently agreed to pay $150,000 to the US Justice Department as a settlement in a fraud lawsuit.
The government had asked for more money, but the doctor’s assets were running low.
He was apparently deliberately telling patients they had multiple sclerosis in order to give them expensive, painful, and unnecessary treatments. According to NBC News, some patients, who were eventually found not to have MS, told stories of remodeling a house to install wheelchair access and treatments with drugs costing $37,000 per week. One patient even underwent removal of her breast implants.
Reviews of his cases found he misdiagnosed MS 65% of the time, and for some other diagnoses, he was wrong 90% of the time.
The doctor was chief of neurology at a hospital ,which also recently settled its part in the fraud suit for $2.5 million. His salary was $600,000 a year “depending on how many patients he saw” and was also being paid “consulting fees” by drug companies.
The federal government could prohibit him from treating Medicare patients, but the US attorney who handled the case said he could do nothing about the doctor’s license to practice medicine.
Criminal charges may be filed, and of course, malpractice suits are pending.
The doctor is no longer practicing in Jacksonville but recently set up shop across the state in Panama City.
The NBC News report said, “The Florida Health Department said it could not confirm if there is an open investigation into the alleged fraud.”
Could it be that no investigation is ongoing?
Skeptical Scalpel is a retired surgeon and was a surgical department chairman and residency program director for many years. He is board-certified in general surgery and critical care and has re-certified in both several times. He blogs at SkepticalScalpel.blogspot.com and tweets as @SkepticScalpel.