As a licensed medical professional (doctor, nurse, physician assistant, dentist, etc.) working in Allentown, PA, you have worked hard to build an exciting and rewarding career. You have dedicated yourself to providing quality care for your patients, and you are constantly expanding your skillset to keep up with the latest medical advancements. But your profession also comes with a lot of stress--after all, the practice of healthcare is one of high public trust, and even small mistakes can have large repercussions. As a result, healthcare professionals are highly regulated, and allegations of gross negligence, ethical violations, and other misconduct are taken seriously. Your career hinges on your professional license, but even a single complaint against you could put that license in jeopardy.
Whether the complaint stems from a misunderstanding, a false accusation, or a simple lapse in judgment on your part, you need to understand what is at stake if your license to practice in Pennsylvania is called into question. State licensing boards have sweeping authority to administer disciplinary action, plus a low burden of proof to meet. You need a skilled professional license defense attorney in your corner to make sure your rights are protected and to give you the best chance of a more favorable outcome.
Professional License Defense Attorney in Allentown, PA
Whether you're accused of substance abuse, gross negligence, or sexual misconduct, or whether your license is in jeopardy over a criminal conviction, the key to minimizing the risk to your license is to hire an Allentown, PA professional license defense attorney at the first sign of trouble. Joseph D. Lento has extensive experience helping licensed medical professionals navigate the complex disciplinary process with favorable results. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your case.
The Disciplinary Process for Medical Professionals in Allentown, PA
In Pennsylvania, the licensing board that issued your professional license is also responsible for administering disciplinary actions for violations or misconduct. For example, if you're a doctor, you'll answer to the State Board of Medicine; if a nurse, the Board of Nursing (BON); if a dentist, the State Board of Dentistry, and so on. Pennsylvania's disciplinary process is fairly uniform for all licensed professionals in the state, including medical professionals. Here's an overview of the standard disciplinary process.
In most cases, board disciplinary procedures are triggered by a formal complaint filed against you. in Pennsylvania, members of the public may file their initial complaints against licensed medical professionals to the Department of State Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs. The complaint may be initiated by anyone, but it most commonly comes from one of the following:
- Other practitioners/colleagues
- Insurers (in the case of suspected fraud).
- Healthcare facilities
Additionally, if you're convicted of a crime in Pennsylvania and are a licensed healthcare professional, your conviction may be automatically reported to your licensing board--and in many cases, this may trigger an automatic suspension pending an investigation.
Once a complaint is received and processed, the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs will assign an investigator from the Bureau of Enforcement and Investigation (BEI) to look into the matter. The BEI investigator will oversee the details of the investigation and evidence-gathering, which may include subpoenas of materials, interviews with the complainant and other witnesses, and requests for a response from you. The investigator may ask to interview you directly, and they may even come to your office unannounced. If this happens, we highly recommend that you politely decline to answer their questions unless your attorney is present, as anything you say could be construed to bolster the licensing board's case against you.
If the investigator's findings are insufficient to prove your guilt, the licensing board may dismiss the complaint and consider the matter closed. If the evidence is compelling, they may opt to take further action.
At any point during the investigation and prior to a formal hearing, your state licensing board has the authority to negotiate a consent agreement with you to resolve the complaint in lieu of a hearing. A consent agreement is effectively an admission of guilt on your part, along with an agreement to submit to certain remedies prescribed by the board. In many cases, a good consent agreement can be negotiated to provide you a pathway back to full reinstatement of your license, and it may be a good alternative if the evidence against you is compelling enough. However, you shouldn't enter into a consent agreement without the advice of a good license defense attorney to ensure the terms are favorable to you.
If your case moves forward without dismissal of the complaint or a consent agreement, you'll be summoned to appear at a formal hearing to show cause as to why the board should not revoke your license. The hearing will take place before a state hearing examiner, and you may appear with an attorney to present your case. At the conclusion of the hearing, the examiner will issue recommendations to the licensing board as to disciplinary action, which may be as mild as a formal reprimand or fine, but could also be as severe as suspension or revocation of your license to practice.
Why You Need an Experienced Professional License Defense Attorney
Healthcare professionals who are accused of misconduct often grasp the severity of the situation, mistakenly believing they can simply "explain the situation" to the licensing board to resolve any misunderstanding. In reality, the licensing board's priority is to protect the public, and as soon as a complaint is issued against you, they are actively looking for evidence to support the complaint. Additionally, the board has the power to administer discipline based on a "preponderance of the evidence," which means they only need to be 51 percent certain of your guilt (as opposed to "beyond a reasonable doubt"). This puts you at a huge disadvantage unless you have a good attorney to help protect your rights and advocate for you.
In many cases, a skilled professional license defense lawyer can negotiate with the board to have your complaint dismissed or to agree to more lenient penalties--greatly increases your chances of a favorable outcome so you can keep your license intact.
Here are some ways a skilled Allentown attorney can help you defend your professional license:
- Assume the role of your legal representative in all dealings with the board.
- Gather evidence and witnesses in support of your position.
- Draft a strong written response to the complaint (which can often convince the board to drop the matter early in the process).
- Negotiate with the board to dismiss the complaint
- Negotiate the most favorable terms for a consent agreement.
- If necessary, defend you at the formal hearing.
Healthcare Institutions in Allentown, PA
Located in Lehigh County in eastern Pennsylvania, Allentown is home to approximately 126,000 people and is one of the fastest-growing municipalities in the state. The area is served by multiple hospitals across the area, plus dozens of primary care and specialty care facilities. These facilities have high standards of professional and ethical conduct, and they take the validity of your professional license seriously. Allegations of misconduct may result in a suspension or termination from employment, particularly if your professional license is jeopardized.
The main healthcare institutions in Allentown, Pennsylvania, include:
Lehigh Valley Health Network
Lehigh Valley Health operates Allentown's largest hospital complex, Lehigh Valley Hospital-Cedar Crest, as well as the 17th Street Hospital campus, the Reilly Children's Hospital, and numerous primary care, specialty care, and urgent care facilities across the area.
St. Luke's University Health Network
Headquartered in nearby Bethlehem, PA, St. Luke's University Health is the most prominent Catholic healthcare system in eastern PA, operating 12 hospital campuses and more than 300 outpatient facilities across the region. St. Luke's operates two Allentown hospital locations, the Allentown campus and the Sacred Heart campus, along with numerous smaller facilities across the city.
Common Allegations that Endanger Your Healthcare Career
Pennsylvania's state licensing boards hold their licensed healthcare professionals to high professional and ethical standards. Most claims that could result in the loss of your license are based on a violation of board regulations, an ethics violation, or a violation of public trust, such as immoral, criminal, or unprofessional behavior. These are among the most common offenses that can lead to disciplinary action from a licensing board.
Many different types of offenses fall into the category of fraud, including, but not limited to:
- "Upcoding" on insurance claims to get more money for certain services
- Overbilling insurance (or overbilling patients directly)
- Billing for services not rendered
- Accepting kickbacks for referrals
- Performing services outside the scope of your license (e.g., prescribing medications when you're not a licensed physician)
- Falsifying or modifying patient records
Patient abuse/gross neglect
This umbrella category covers any kind of neglect or abuse that may jeopardize the safety or well-being of a patient. Examples include:
- Physical abuse (e.g., hitting, sexual assault)
- Emotional abuse (e.g., verbally intimidating and threatening patients)
- Unintentional abuse (e.g., Pushing a patient beyond their emotional/physical limits
- Violating patient confidentiality
- Medical errors (e.g., prescribing the wrong medicine or the wrong dose, performing unnecessary procedures, performing procedures in an unsafe manner)
Incorrect prescribing, dispensing, or managing of controlled substances
Because of the potential for abuse, healthcare professionals who prescribe or dispense controlled substances are subject to strict regulation. Violations in this category include:
- Prescribing medications without a legitimate medical purpose
- Overprescribing medication (e.g., opioids)
- Keeping Incorrect records or inventory tracking for medications
- Pilfering medication for personal use or street resale
- Dispensing controlled substances without a prescription
Sexual misconduct/inappropriate relationships
It is against medical ethics for doctors to have romantic or sexual relationships with patients they are treating. Unwelcome sexual advances (toward colleagues or patients), sexual harassment, and sexual assault are all examples of sexual misconduct. These actions almost always lead to the loss of a license and being falsely accused of sexual misconduct and jeopardize your license as well due to the sensitivity of the issue.
Patient safety is paramount in the healthcare industry, and keeping accurate records is a huge part of that. If you are accused of either falsifying patient records or keeping records in a haphazard manner, your license could be at risk.
Not following the treatment recommendations
Your license could be in danger if you work for a doctor and fail to follow the doctor's orders for the treatment of a patient. You could also be disciplined if a patient requires specialist care and you fail to refer them.
Substance abuse by medical professionals is considered a violation of public trust because these substances can affect your judgment and competence when treating patients. Your healthcare license may be suspended or revoked if you misuse prescription drugs, use illegal drugs, or drink to excess. Furthermore, any colleague or coworker who suspects you of substance abuse has an ethical obligation to report it.
A healthcare professional can lose their license as a result of a criminal conviction, especially for crimes related to their profession or crimes of moral turpitude. The court system may automatically report criminal convictions to your licensing board, and your license may be automatically suspended pending an investigation.
Professional License Defense at Allentown, Pennsylvania
For the medical professional practicing in Allentown, any allegation of misconduct should be taken seriously, no matter how minor. Your license could be suspended or revoked if the state licensing board finds enough evidence to assume your guilt. A professional license defense attorney can help you navigate the complex disciplinary process and save your career.
The Lento Law firm can help any of the following medical professionals in Allentown, PA, who are facing possible disciplinary action from their licensing board:
- Nurse practitioners
- Physician assistants
- Mental health professionals
- Physical therapists
- Other licensed healthcare professionals
If you're accused of misconduct or a license-threatening violation, don't wait until you are summoned to a formal hearing to hire an attorney. By involving attorney Joseph D. Lento early in the process, you have a much better chance of protecting your career and your livelihood. Call the Lento Law firm today at (888) 535-3686 to schedule a consultation.