As a physician (M.D. or D.O.) practicing in Pennsylvania, you've worked hard to get where you are today. You've dedicated years to your education and training, and you've put in the long hours required to build a successful medical practice. But now your livelihood is at risk because your professional license is under investigation.
What can you do to protect yourself and your career?
The Pennsylvania State Board of Medicine holds its licensees to a high standard of professional and ethical conduct. If the Board believes that you have violated one or more of its rules, it can invoke disciplinary action against you, even to the point of revoking your medical license and effectively ending your career. If you find yourself in this situation, it is critical that you seek experienced legal counsel to help you navigate the complex disciplinary process and protect your rights. Attorney Joseph D. Lento is an experienced PA professional license defense attorney who can greatly improve your chances of a favorable outcome with the Board. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your case.
What Types of Accusations Can Put a Physician's License in Jeopardy?
In Pennsylvania, physicians can be disciplined over a wide range of misconduct issues, most of which have something to do with a violation of state laws, ethical/professional standards, or public trust. Some of the most common allegations that can put your license at risk include the following:
- Inappropriate handling of medications or prescription fraud
- Sexual misconduct with patients or subordinates (including sexual harassment or unethical romantic relationships with patients)
- Gross negligence or incompetence in patient care
- Fraudulent billing practices (e.g., overbilling patients or billing for services not provided)
- Healthcare fraud (e.g., "upcoding" procedures to get more money or submitting claims on service not provided)
- Poor record-keeping (e.g., inaccurate patient records, compromising patient confidentiality)
- Substance abuse (drug/alcohol abuse casts doubt on your ability to provide proper patient care)
- Criminal convictions (especially for crimes of moral turpitude).
What Is the Disciplinary Process for Physicians in Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania follows a fairly uniform system for filing complaints against licensed professionals and the resulting disciplinary actions. Any member of the public can file a formal complaint against any licensed professional with the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs (BPOA). For physicians practicing in PA, complainants are typically patients, coworkers, other practitioners, and in some cases, insurance companies. Once a complaint is filed with the BPOA, the disciplinary process typically moves forward as follows.
The BPOA will assign an investigator from the Bureau of Enforcement and Investigation (BEI) to investigate a complaint after it has been received and reviewed. While gathering facts, the BEI investigator may question the complainant and witnesses, subpoena documents, and request you to respond to the allegation in writing. If the investigator's findings cannot validate the complaint, then the Board of Medicine will dismiss it. However, if there is enough evidence to warrant it, the case will move forward.
The Board may attempt to negotiate a consent agreement with you if the evidence in your case is convincing. A consent agreement entails your acknowledgment of guilt and your willingness to accept the Board's recommendations as to penalties. A consent agreement might be an acceptable resolution if disciplinary action is inevitable--especially if the agreement includes a path to reinstatement of your license. However, it's not always the wisest choice, so we advise that you consult with a professional license defense attorney before signing one.
Once the investigation is complete, if no consent agreement is signed, you will be summoned to appear at a formal hearing before a state examiner. During this hearing, you will need to show cause why your license should not be revoked. An attorney may defend you at the hearing. After the hearing concludes, the examiner will make recommendations to the licensing board about any disciplinary actions, which could be as mild as a formal reprimand or as severe as a full revocation of your license to practice medicine.
How a Pennsylvania Physician License Defense Attorney Can Help
If you are a medical professional whose license is under scrutiny because of a complaint, you should keep in mind that the State Board of Medicine's priority is public safety above all else. The Board is not interested in proving you guilty of wrongdoing "beyond a reasonable doubt" as if you were on trial. Rather, they only need to apply the "preponderance of the evidence" standard, meaning they only need to be convinced that you are more than 50 percent likely to have committed the wrongdoing. They also have sweeping authority to revoke your license, even if they err on the side of caution. This puts you at a disadvantage from the very beginning.
A skilled Pennsylvania license defense attorney will help you level the playing field and give you the best chance at a favorable outcome. An attorney can review the allegations against you, identify weaknesses in the evidence, gather witnesses in your defense, and make persuasive arguments on your behalf. An attorney can also negotiate with the Board to have the complaint dismissed, to agree on lesser penalties, or to reach a consent agreement that is in your best interests.
In summary, a skilled physician license defense attorney will:
- Act as your official legal representative in all interactions with the Board.
- Review the complaint against you and develop an effective defense strategy to counter it.
- Gather evidence and witnesses to support your position.
- Assist in drafting a compelling written response to the complaint (which may result in having the complaint dropped with no further action).
- Negotiate directly with the Board for the best resolution of the complaint.
- Defend you vigorously at a formal hearing.
- In some cases, assist with the process of reinstatement of your license if it has already been revoked.
If you're a Pennsylvania physician who has been notified of a complaint against your license, involving a skilled attorney quickly may very well save your career. Contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today at (888) 535-3686 to schedule a consultation.