While the shortage of licensed physicians continues to grow across the country, New York has been particularly hard-hit. Some 2023 estimates suggest that the state will have as little as 3% of the physicians it needs to adequately meet demands by 2030.
Given that physicians are an essential piece of the healthcare puzzle, numbers like that have been cause for additional alarm. Because while access to quality healthcare is always a concern, a lack of this magnitude can put entire communities at risk.
And that doesn't fare well for a critical resource that's already stretched too thin.
This makes defending your New York State physician's license more important than ever. Allegations of wrongdoing and misconduct can quickly derail your practice as a licensed physician, and it can be a confusing and frustrating battle to navigate. Having an experienced defense team who understands the disciplinary process in New York can help you defend your license and protect your essential career.
Fortunately, the Lento Law Firm Team has the experience to help you through this process and achieve the best possible outcome. Our law firm has worked with doctors, nurses, and other professionals across the country in similar situations, and we're ready to go to work for you. Contact the Lento Law Firm at (888) 535-3686 or use our online form today to schedule a consultation.
How Are Physicians Regulated in New York?
New York physicians are licensed and regulated by a branch of the New York State Education Department (NYSED) called the Office of the Professions. As with all medical professionals, New York physicians must meet a variety of education and experience requirements, in addition to passing extensive mandated exams.
The NYSED also oversees the ongoing management of these licenses, including re-registration and verification of required continuing medical education credits (CMEs). Interestingly, New York does not have a specific number of required CMEs but does mandate specific categories of continuing education on a rolling basis.
Also worth noting, both individual facilities and certain accrediting organizations may (and often do!) have their own CME requirements. That means a trauma surgeon working at Brooklyn's Kings County Hospital may have to meet different requirements than an Internal Medicine specialist working at Cross Keys in Fairport would need.
Complaints against physicians are handled by the Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC), a department within the New York State Department of Health (NYSDOH). This entity investigates claims of wrongdoing and professional misconduct and then works in conjunction with the state Board for Professional Medical Conduct (Board) to resolve the issue. If formal disciplinary action is required, orders are issued by the Board.
The OPMC also maintains an online database of all physicians and physician assistants who have been charged with misconduct, disciplined since 1990, or who are otherwise subject to a non-disciplinary Board Order.
What Types of Physician Specialties Are at Risk?
All of them! All licensed New York medical professionals are governed by the Office of the Professions and are subject to both New York law and any orders or rulings set out by the Board.
This includes physicians you'd see on the front lines – such as emergency medicine doctors, internal medicine doctors (internists), and general family practice physicians – as well as specialty practitioners, including anesthesiologists, oncologists, and cardiovascular surgeons.
In fact, under New York's Education Code (NY CLS Education § 6521), the practice of medicine is defined as "diagnosing, treating, operating, or prescribing for any human disease, pain, injury, deformity, or physical condition." That's a broad list.
Fortunately, our law firm works with every type of physician specialty and practice. If you've been accused of professional wrongdoing, the Lento Law Firm Team can help you defend your professional license and protect the career you've worked so hard to achieve.
What Allegations Can Endanger a New York Physician's License?
While rules and regulations may vary a bit from state to state, all governing bodies agree that doctors should be held to the highest standard of care when it comes to their medical practice. This is because of the extensive training and education required to acquire a physician's license, as well as the enormous amount of trust a patient must invest to receive proper care.
As a result, there is a lengthy list of behaviors and actions that can put your physician's license at risk, specifically those that demonstrate negligence, incompetence, or a lack of moral fitness.
The state's Education Code (New York State Education § 6530) lays these out in more detail. These actions can include:
- Practicing without a license or obtaining the license fraudulently
- Patient abuse and patient neglect
- Substance abuse, including alcohol abuse and practicing while under the influence
- Sexual abuse and inappropriate sexual conduct with patients
- Practicing while impaired by a physical or mental disability
- Unethical or unprofessional conduct
- Practicing with gross negligence or incompetence
- Patient endangerment and patient harassment
- Having a medical license suspended, refused, or revoked in another state for an act that would constitute professional misconduct in New York
- Theft, falsification of documentation, and acts of poor moral fiber
- Being convicted of a crime under state or federal law
- Violating conditions of a probation
You should also know that New York requires physicians to re-register every two years. So, while your medical license doesn't expire, you could lose your ability to practice medicine in New York if your registration is suspended, revoked, or denied for new allegations, even if you've successfully registered as a practicing physician in the past.
Lastly, failing to update your profile on the state's database can also cause problems. The NYSDOH maintains a database of all licensed physicians (MDs and DOs) that are registered to practice in New York state. This database contains basic information about you and your practice but also includes information about your training, education, and current fitness as a medical professional.
Regular updates to your profile are required for re-registration; however, it's not enough to just scroll through and assume all your information has stayed the same. In fact, the state began disciplinary proceedings back in 2014 against physicians who had failed to accurately answer all the questions, equating the oversight with filing false information and therefore constituting professional misconduct.
Don't let a simple oversight jeopardize your career.
What Is New York's Disciplinary Process For Licensed Physicians?
All complaints must be submitted in writing and reviewed by the OPMC for merit.
If the complaint is credible, the OPMC will proceed with an investigation. This often includes interviews with those that are involved or may have witnessed the actions in question. These interviews can be conducted in person or over the phone, and as the licensed physician who has been accused, the Board will expect you to cooperate with the investigation and provide any information and/or documentation that may be related to the matter.
The identity of the complainant is kept confidential during this process.
If no misconduct is found during the investigation, the matter will be closed, and both the complainant and the accused physician will be notified by letter. The OPMC will retain details of the case in its files, should it be needed for reference in the future, but it will not show up on your profile, and all details will be kept confidential.
If there is sufficient evidence to suggest some sort of misconduct that falls outside the scope of the OPMC's authority (such as a criminal offense), the matter is referred to the appropriate agency. Both the complainant and the physician (if he or she has been involved in the investigation) will be notified by letter.
If the evidence indicates the misconduct is within the OPMC's jurisdiction, the matter is referred to a three-person committee for further review.
This three-person committee will consist of two physicians and one layperson, all chosen from the Board. The committee will review the evidence and can do any of the following to resolve the issue:
- Recommend a hearing
- Request additional investigation
- Recommend the matter be dismissed
- Recommend non-disciplinary warnings or other actions.
All recommendations are made directly to the Commissioner of the Department of Health.
This committee can also request that a physician's license be immediately suspended if there is reason to believe that the physician poses an immediate threat to public health and safety.
In this instance - or if the Board finds enough evidence to substantiate the claim of misconduct - the physician will be formally charged, and a hearing will be scheduled.
Hearings are held before a second three-person committee (also consisting of two physicians and a layperson), and both sides are given the opportunity to present their case. It is highly advisable to have legal counsel present during this process. In fact, the OPMC allows physicians to have legal representation present throughout the entire investigation.
Also, note that you will be expected to testify at your hearing. Refusing to do so can reflect poorly with the Board.
Having our Professional License Defense Team in your corner can help you present your best defense while also giving you some peace of mind. These proceedings are a serious matter and can be incredibly stressful. Knowing that you have an experienced legal team working on your behalf is an effective way to ease that stress and protect your practice.
What Kind of Disciplinary Actions Can New York's Medical Board Take?
If a physician is found to be guilty of misconduct or negligence, the Board has the authority to determine the appropriate discipline. The specific punishment used will depend upon the type and level of misconduct but can include:
- License suspension
- License revocation
- License limitations, such as restricting the physician to performing only certain treatments or procedures
- Additional training and education
- Formal warning
- License cancellation (annulment)
- A fine of up to $10,000 for each adjudicated offense
- Community service
New York's Public Health Law § 230 offers details about the different actions and also gives the Board authority to place the physician on suspension or probation, pending additional training, treatment, or completion of another disciplinary requirement.
During this suspension or probation, the Board can utilize a variety of methods to monitor the physician, including the mandatory review of active cases, spontaneous visits to the physician's place of employment, and even supervision of treatment and procedures.
Can a Guilty Ruling Be Appealed or Overturned?
Yes! Both the licensed physician and the Director of the OPMC can appeal the outcome of an investigation. To do this, you'll need to file your appeal with the OPMC's Administrative Review Board and be prepared to present your case.
Appeals are often just as involved as the original hearing (if not more so, because there is already a guilty verdict hanging over you) and can include the need for witness and expert testimony, as well as the gathering and presentation of evidence.
The Lento Law Firm Team can help you prepare for your appeal and ensure you receive the best possible outcome. Our License Defense Team has been working with physicians across the country for many years, and we know how to navigate this process and work with the OPMC.
Don't face an appeal process alone; let us help you defend your physician's license.
Can a License Be Reinstated After It's Been Revoked?
In some cases, yes. However, understand that you have a long road ahead.
The Department of Health and the OPMC understand that there can be mitigating circumstances, that not all violations should constitute a forever ban, and even more serious violations can sometimes be overcome with the right training, treatment, and personal commitment.
But don't expect an easy path of redemption.
If you want to pursue reinstatement, you'll need to present a strong case that demonstrates your remorse or regret for the incident and your dedication to providing only the best medical care.
That kind of defense can include witness testimony about your character and moral constitution, as well as proof that you have kept up with your continuing education requirements and the latest research, technology, and procedures within your practice area.
Have you taken additional classes or gained new certifications? Have you successfully completed a substance abuse program or sought counseling or other professional treatment?
How have you learned from your mistake - be it an unfortunate oversight or a critical lapse in judgment - and used it to become a better, more effective physician?
How you answer these questions will help form the foundation of your appeal, but please don't try to pursue this remedy on your own.
The reinstatement process can be both frustrating and overwhelming. It also may not give you the desired results, despite your best efforts. Having an experienced license defense team working on your behalf will give you the best chance for success, and the Lento Law Firm Team is ready to help you take this next step.
The Dangers of a Consent Order
A Consent Order is essentially an agreement between you and the NYDOH. Much like a plea deal in a criminal case, you are acknowledging the charges against you, and in return, the OPMC will not pursue further action.
In some cases, a consent order may be your best option, but it's important to understand what you're signing before you enter into such an agreement.
By signing a consent order, you are admitting guilt, making the order (and its charges) part of your public record. You also agree to whatever discipline the OPMC has stipulated, and this can include a partial or full suspension of privileges, as well as the requirement to receive additional training or complete a treatment program. All of this can affect your ability to continue your practice and earn a living.
If you're not prepared for this hardship, it can be a difficult challenge to overcome.
And finally, signing a consent order waives your right to a hearing. Should you change your mind about the agreement at some point, you would have a difficult time appealing the decision.
Consulting an attorney with experience in defending physicians against disciplinary action before you sign a consent agreement is the best way to protect your license and negotiate the best possible outcome. The Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm can help!
Can a Physician Verify a License Is in Good Standing?
Yes! The NYSED's Office of the Professions maintains a secure database of all licensed professionals. This database is updated daily and is considered the most accurate and secure way to verify a professional license in New York.
You can also request verification in writing, along with confirmation that your registration is still in good standing, by submitting an online request.
How to Make Your Physician's License Easier to Defend
Defending your physician's license can be a lengthy and complex affair. You are essentially offering "proof" that demonstrates your worthiness as a practicing physician; failing to achieve this goal can endanger your practice.
It makes sense, then, that you'd want to do everything you can to simplify the process and make the question of keeping your license a no-brainer.
This is called making your license "legally defensible," and it's a great way to increase your chances of keeping your license and continuing your practice.
Having a legally defensible license means that you've taken steps to protect, document, and reinforce your standing as a practicing physician in New York.
This can include participation in recognized training and educational programs, timely completion of continuing education requirements, keeping your physician's profile updated, providing plain English forms for patients, and observing practices and procedures that ensure they receive the best care. Providing regular training for office staff (if applicable) is also advisable to ensure everything regarding patient care is top-notch.
And documentation here is key. Having detailed and accessible recorded proof and examples of these measures offer an added layer of insulation around your physician's license, making it harder to take away.
You Need a New York Professional License Defense Team
Your physician's license took time and effort. From the schooling and training you pursued when you started this career to the years of experience you've acquired and the practice privileges you've negotiated, your physician's practice has been hard-earned.
Don't let it slip away.
Working with an experienced professional license defense team is the best way to help you protect your license and keep your practice. It doesn't matter if you're just starting the disciplinary process for a new allegation or if you're trying to get a revoked license reinstated; we can help you prepare a strong case for every stage of the disciplinary process. Some of the ways we can help include:
- Filing an official response to the complaint
- Responding to requests for documentation and testimony
- Gathering evidence and witnesses to support your case
- Defending you during a formal hearing
- Pursuing a dismissal of the complaint
- Negotiating for leniency in disciplinary actions
- Representing you in all interactions with NYSED, NYDOH, the OPMC, and any select review boards or panels
- Negotiating the best possible terms for a consent order
This is a very precarious time and one that requires both quick action and a solid understanding of the rules, regulations, and laws that surround your physician's license. The sooner you contact the Lento Law Firm Team, the easier this process will be because you'll know exactly what's coming your way.
And you'll have an experienced team ready to defend your license!
What Areas Does the Lento Law Firm Serve?
The Lento Law Firm Team works with physicians across the country, and that includes the entire state of New York. Our law firm can help you protect your license, independent of your location, employer, or hospital where you maintain privileges.
This includes larger metropolitan facilities such as Albany Medical Center, Buffalo General Medical Center, and the Coler-Goldwater Specialty Hospital in Manhattan, as well as the Northern Dutchess Hospital in Rhinebeck, NY, and the O'Conner Hospital in Delhi.
New York Presbyterian in Brooklyn, Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, and Richmond University Medical Center in Staten Island.
If you are a New York physician trying to defend your license against accusations of professional misconduct or wrongdoing, we can help!
Contact the Lento Law Firm Team to Protect Your Physician's License
You don't have to do this by yourself. You've worked hard to obtain your physician's license; now let the Lento Law Firm Team work to defend it.
Our Professional License Defense Team understands New York's disciplinary process, and we know how to navigate and negotiate for the best possible outcome. Rest assured, the state and the OPMC have plenty of legal resources at their disposal. They know the rules because they wrote the rules. And this is their process, so they hold all the cards.
Let's change that.
We can help you present a strong defense, giving you a better chance of keeping your license and your livelihood.