Establishing a career as a licensed psychiatrist in Pennsylvania is no easy task. You've gone through eight years of school, a four-year residency, sat for grueling exams to become a D.O. or M.D., and qualified to become board-certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN). Ironically, all that hard work could be jeopardized by a single complaint to the Pennsylvania State Board of Medicine. If you are lucky, the complaint will be dismissed, and you can move on with your career. However, if the state decides to investigate, you could be facing serious consequences, up to and including the loss of your license to practice psychiatry.
Your best hope of saving your license and your career is to hire a skilled Pennsylvania license defense attorney at the first sign of trouble. With many years of legal experience, Joseph D. Lento has successfully helped many professionals with cases similar to yours. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your case.
What Types of Allegations Could Endanger Your License in Pennsylvania?
The Pennsylvania Board of Medicine can investigate psychiatrists for many different reasons, most commonly due to breaking state policies, not following professional/ethical standards, or betraying the public's trust. Examples include, but are not limited to:
- Sexual misconduct. Examples include unwanted sexual advances or sexual harassment toward colleagues, staff, or patients, sexual assault, or unethical romantic/sexual relationships with patients.
- Inappropriate handling of prescriptions/medications. Examples include prescribing controlled substances to patients without a legitimate medical reason, keeping inaccurate inventories of medications, diverting medicines intended for patients for personal use, etc.
- Gross negligence or incompetence. This can include any action that deviates so far from the standard of care that it risks patient safety, such as failing to properly diagnose a condition, misreading lab results, or making a major medication error.
- Violation of patient confidentiality. This can include sharing information about a patient's diagnosis or treatment with unauthorized individuals, discussing a patient's case in public without their consent, or accessing a patient's records without a legitimate reason.
- Fraud. Examples include "upcoding" procedures for higher insurance payouts, billing for services not rendered, false advertising, misrepresenting your credentials, etc.
- Substance abuse. Drug use and excessive alcohol consumption cast doubt on your ability to provide proper patient care or exert good judgment.
- Unethical/discriminatory behavior. Your license could be jeopardized if you're accused of discriminating against patients on the basis of race, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, etc.
- Criminal convictions. Certain criminal convictions can disqualify you from holding a psychiatrist license in Pennsylvania, especially crimes of moral turpitude.
What Is the Disciplinary Process for Psychiatrists in Pennsylvania?
The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has a streamlined process for filing grievances against licensed professionals, which is overseen by the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs (BPOA). Complaints can be filed with the BPOA by any member of the public, but in the case of psychiatrists, the most common complainants are patients, coworkers, other practitioners, and sometimes insurance companies. After the BPOA receives your complaint, it will go through the following stages.
The BPOA will assign an investigator from the Bureau of Enforcement and Investigation (BEI) to look into the complaint against you. The BEI investigator will interview the complainant and any potential witnesses, request documents, and do other methods of research to ascertain what happened. They may also ask you to respond to the allegation in writing. If insufficient evidence is discovered to support the complaint, the matter will be dropped; if supporting evidence is found, the case moves forward to the next stages.
If the board concludes that the evidence against you is persuasive, they may try to reach a consent agreement with you instead of having a formal hearing. The consent agreement would entail admitting to your misconduct and agreeing to follow the board's suggestions for disciplinary measures. Since a consent agreement is essentially an admission of guilt, it's not always the best course of action--especially if you have evidence to prove your innocence. However, if the evidence against you is compelling and disciplinary action is inevitable, a consent agreement can be a good resolution if it includes a path to reinstatement.
In the absence of a signed consent agreement, you will be summoned to appear at a formal hearing before a state examiner to show cause why your license should not be revoked. You may be represented by an attorney at the hearing. Depending on the hearing's outcome, the Board of Medicine could give you a formal reprimand or revoke your license entirely.
Why It's Important to Hire an Experienced License Defense Attorney
The Pennsylvania State Board of Medicine has an obligation to protect the public, and it has broad authority to discipline psychiatrists and other doctors that it believes have violated its ethical or professional standards. The board takes misconduct allegations seriously, and they have the right to revoke your license based only on a preponderance of the evidence. There's no guarantee of a presumption of innocence, and any statements or actions you make could be used against you. In other words, you're going into the disciplinary process at an inherent disadvantage.
Hiring an experienced attorney can level the playing field and give you a fighting chance to protect your career. An attorney can help you understand the complaint against you, gather evidence to support your defense, and represent you in negotiations with the board to have the complaint dismissed or work for lesser penalties. If a hearing is necessary, an experienced license defense attorney will know how to present your case in the most favorable light and give you the best chance of avoiding a revocation of your license.
You've worked too hard to build a successful career to have it upended by an unfair allegation, a misstep, or a misunderstanding. Hiring the right attorney could save your career. Contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today at (888) 535-3686 to schedule a consultation.