After months of meetings and deliberations, the Medical Board of California has released the new guidelines for prescribing controlled substances, the first amendment the Board has made to the guidelines since 2007. Here’s a link to the new document:
This document should be read and studied carefully by every medical provider, insurer, risk manager, group manager, patient safety director, quality assurance director, and anyone else who is around controlled substances, either in an office practice, accountable care organization, or hospital setting. These guidelines must be adhered to, in order to treat patients responsibly and to have the best chance of avoiding criminal liability and criminal prosecution for unsafe prescribing or excessive prescribing. The guidelines are not mandatory – they’re guidelines – but if a Medical Board expert in a criminal case or licensing proceeding sees that you did not follow the guidelines, the expert’s opinion will be that you fell below the standard of care. That opinion will then be used to justify license sanctions or revocation, and it will be sold to a jury as evidence that you prescribed without a legitimate medical purpose, thus committing a crime.
The guidelines also include risk assessment tools for opioid prescribing, sample informed consent agreements, sample pain medication agreements, and other tools you can utilize to make sure you are keeping scrupulous and thorough records.
With the Medical Board making this document available, any physician who does not read, review, and incorporate these guidelines into their prescribing regimen will put themselves at risk of serious legal trouble, the kind that can put you in prison as well as get you sued and threaten your license. To be on notice of these guidelines is to protect yourself if you ever come under criminal or administrative investigation. Don’t take a chance. Read the guidelines and do all you can to incorporate into your practice and your record keeping the simple but critical things they say.
Now you have something to read on Thanksgiving if your relatives are driving you crazy, and if you’re a Seattle Seahawks fan and my 49ers are beating your team in that day’s game!
Happy Thanksgiving, and read those guidelines.
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