The Texas Medical Board recently entered another order against Tomball and Kingwood orthopedic surgeon Michael Lee Blackwell, M.D.
Dr. Blackwell has had an active license to practice medicine in the State of Texas since 1993. According to his profile with the Texas Medical Board, his primary practice area is orthopedic surgery, but he is not board-certified in any area of medicine. The only medical staff privileges that he reports is at HCA Houston Healthcare Tomball (formally known as Tomball Regional Medical Center).
He runs his medical practice out of the Center for Orthopaedics & Sports Medicine, which has offices in Tomball and Kingwood. According to his practice website, Dr. Blackwell focuses his practice on treating orthopedic injuries including anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears, fractures, sports injuries, foot and ankle injuries, hand and wrist problems, knee replacement, hip replacement, shoulder replacement, and other conditions.
The latest action by the Texas Medical Board is the fifth disciplinary matter for Dr. Blackwell since 2008.
March 6, 2020 Board Order
The Texas Medical Board staff charged Dr. Blackwell with violating the standard of care for one patient by failing to appropriately assess the patient postoperatively. Also, in failing to acknowledge and document complications from hand surgery that required corrective surgery and reconstruction.
The Board panel found that the patient complained of hand numbness and weakness that she claimed had gotten worse after her surgery with Dr. Blackwell. Despite the patient complaints, the Board panel found that the medical record documentation by Dr. Blackwell and his staff reflects that the patient’s pain and numbness had improved.
I found the Board’s finding of fact on this issue to be interesting. In many medical malpractice cases that I’ve handled against surgeons, there have been significant discrepancies between what the patient recalls occurring post-operatively and what was found in the medical records.
Additionally, the Board panel found that Dr. Blackwell did medically document his physical exam findings post-operatively, and didn’t note anything that would indicate a surgical complication.
Generally, the purpose of post-operative visits is for the surgeon to look for complications and to make sure that the patient’s recoveries on track. As part of this, the standard of care requires the surgeon to perform a physical examination of the patient on each post-operative visit and document those findings and the patient’s medical record. This allows establishing a baseline so the surgeon and staff can assess the patient’s improvement or deterioration on successive visits.
Finally, the Board panel found that Dr. Blackwell didn’t consider a surgical complication or order a post-operative neurological examination or any other diagnostic testing based on the patient’s complaints.
In deciding how to proceed and the disciplinary action, the Board panel noted that Dr. Blackwell “has a significant prior board history involving medical record documentation issues.”
To avoid further investigation, hearings, and litigation, Dr. Blackwell agreed to enter an Agreed Order that requires him to:
• Enroll in and successfully complete the medical recordkeeping course offered by the University of California Sand Diego Physician Assessment and Clinical Education program or an equivalent course. Dr. Blackwell must complete the course within one year from the date of the Agreed Order.
• Also, within one year from the date of the Agreed Order, Dr. Blackwell must enroll and successfully complete at least eight hours of continuing medical education (CME) focused on how to perform post-operative exams and recognize complications.
• While the Agreed Order is in effect, Dr. Blackwell must get a copy of it to all hospitals, nursing homes, treatment facilities, and other health care entities in Texas where he has staff privileges or applies for staff privileges. Interestingly, though, the Board does not require him to notify his patients about the Agreed Order.
April 12, 2013 Board Order
The Texas Medical Board and Dr. Blackwell entered into an Agreed Order requiring him to complete 12 hours of continuing medical education (CME), including four hours in surgical safety checklists and eight hours in an MRI examination of the knee. This action came after the Board found that Dr. Blackwell didn’t exercise proper diligence and failed to document fully his findings and rationale for treatment.
April 8, 2011 Board Order
A Quality Assurance Panel of the Board found that Dr. Blackwell failed to recognize a normal anatomic variant in a patient, which resulted in the patient having to undergo another surgery.
The Texas Medical Board entered a Corrective Order requiring Dr. Blackwell to have his practice monitored for six consecutive monitoring cycles. The basis for this order is the Board’s finding that Dr. Blackwell failed use proper diligence in his professional practice.
The order required him Dr. Blackwell to provide complete legible copies of selected patient medical and billing records, including surgery records, to an independent physician designated by the Board. The order noted that the Board would select at least 30 patients Dr. Blackwell saw, each would be review for a three-month period by the independent physician. The physician monitor would be charged with analyzing the records to identify any perceived deficiencies and to make recommendations to improve Dr. Blackwell’s practice of medicine or to assist in the ongoing monitoring process.
Dr. Blackwell did not admit or deny the Board’s findings but agreed to the Corrective Order to avoid the cost and uncertainty of further action by the Board, including litigation.
May 29, 2009 Board Order
After the Texas Medical Board alleged that Dr. Blackwell yelled at hospital staff in the presence of the patient, family members, and staff, after being told that his scheduled surgery would be delayed because of an emergency. The Board and Dr. Blackwell entered into an Agreed Order requiring him to pay an administrative penalty of $1,000.
As a former hospital administrator, I’m always concerned to see this type of behavior because it can intimidate nurses and other staff members from advocating for proper patient care.
December 12, 2008 Board Order
The Texas Medical Board alleged that Dr. Blackwell failed to provide adequate documentation and supportive treatments and procedures to a surgical patient. Dr. Blackwell had performed a total knee replacement surgery for a patient with a history of hypertension, coronary artery disease, and other illnesses.
The Board found that after the surgery, the patient had post-operative complications, including shortness of breath and pain. Other treating doctors diagnosed him with cellulitis, blood clots, and a staph infection. The Board noted that Dr. Blackwell’s medical record documentation failed to show his thought processes, particularly in regard to his decision not to return the patient to surgery for re-exploration of his knee. In fact, the Board found that Dr. Blackwell failed to document his visits to see the patient.
The Board and Dr. Blackwell entered into a Mediated Agreed Order requiring Dr. Blackwell to complete five hours of continuing medical education (CME) in medical record-keeping and five hours of CME and risk management.
The standard of care requires a surgeon or any doctor to form a differential diagnosis of each potential medical diagnosis that could explain the patient’s condition. Then, the surgeon or physician must perform an assessment, procedure, or testing to rule out each potential diagnosis, starting with the most dangerous one. Failing to do so would place a patient into unneeded risk.
What you can do
Take advantage of the Texas Medical board Website, which has a searchable online database where you can do free research about any physician licensed to practice in Texas. You can learn about a doctor’s licensure date, medical school and residency training, any board certifications, and any disciplinary history.
If you’ve been seriously injured because of poor surgical or medical care provided by non-board- certified orthopedic surgeon Dr. Michael Blackwell, or any other surgeon or physician, then contact a top-rated Houston, Texas medical malpractice lawyer for help in evaluating your potential case.