Doctor fights to regain license lost to lax computer skills
Holding manila folders filled with pages of her handwritten reports, Dr. Anna Konopka insists her system for keeping track of her patients' medical conditions and various prescriptions works just fine.
But the New Hampshire Board of Medicine disagrees. It is challenging the 84-year-old New London physician's record keeping, prescribing practices and medical decision making. Konopka surrendered her license last month — something she said she was forced to do — and is going to court on Friday in a bid to regain it.
According to the state, the allegations against Konopka are related to her treatment of a 7-year-old patient with asthma, including leaving dosing levels of one medication up to the parents and failing to treat the patient with daily inhaled steroids. Konopka said she never harmed the patient and the issue was that the boy's mother disregarded her instructions.
But part of the problem also appears to be Konopka's refusal to register with the state's mandatory drug-monitoring program. The program, which the state signed onto in 2014, requires prescribers of opioids to register in a bid to help cut down on overdoses.
Konopka doesn't have a computer nor does she know how to use one, making it impossible for her to access the state system. There isn't a computer in her tiny office — only a landline phone— and she admits even using email is a challenge.
"The problem now is that I am not doing certain things on computer," said Konopka, who emigrated from Poland in 1961 and has treated patients in this small town since 1989. "I have to learn that. It is time consuming. I have no time."
Konopka said she would be willing to learn to use a computer, but she refuses to spend the money to create an electronic record system for her office.
"I can't afford that," said Konopka, who runs her office alone and has no money for staff. "Everything is expensive. I would have to raise the fee and many people don't have insurance."
Konopka has built a loyal following in New London, population 4,400, and surrounding towns because of her hands-on style, personal touch and willingness to treat almost any condition. She also shuns insurance — partly because of the hassle of electronic filing — and takes anyone willing to pay her $50 in cash.
Her ongoing fight with the state has prompted scores of patients to write letters on her behalf and call her repeatedly to check on her case. Many, she said, are anxious that they won't be able to see her again and are struggling to find an affordable option or anyone else willing to treat their ailments. Several of her patients are expected to attend Friday's hearing.
"I feel Dr. Konopka is being unfairly singled out because she is not 'online' and she does all her office administration herself," Lynn Boudreau, who says Konopka successfully treated her chronic fatigue, wrote in a letter to the state Department of Justice. "I know for a fact that her patients adore her, both for her knowledge of the healing arts as well as her bedside manner and her genuine concern for her patients."
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