As a licensed medical professional serving the Cherry Hill, NJ community, you are involved in a challenging yet rewarding career. You have worked hard to get where you are today, and you have dedicated your time and energy to providing quality care for your patients. However, even the most skilled and experienced doctors, nurses, dentists, and other medical professionals can find themselves in a situation where their license is at risk.
Whether you are facing accusations of professional misconduct or other problems with your medical practice, the threat of losing your license is a very real one. Because the medical professions rely heavily on public trust, all it may take is a single mistake, a momentary lapse in judgment, or even a vindictive person leveling false accusations to put your entire career in jeopardy.
Professional License Defense Attorney in Cherry Hill, NJ
Regardless of the accusation, whether it's insurance fraud, substance abuse, gross negligence, abuse, etc., taking action at the first sign of trouble is your best chance of saving your career. The first step is to contact a knowledgeable, professional license defense attorney who can represent your interests, protect your rights, and guide you through the complicated disciplinary process. Attorney Joseph D. Lento is a New Jersey professional license defense attorney who helps medical and healthcare professionals in Cherry Hill Township, NJ, whose licenses may be at risk. Before responding to a complaint or showing up for a hearing before your licensing board, get the legal help you need to improve your chances for a favorable outcome. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your case.
The Disciplinary Process for Medical Professionals in Cherry Hill, NJ
While the procedures and policies of each board may differ slightly, the majority of disciplinary investigations against licensed doctors will follow the same process. If you are a healthcare professional who is accused of misconduct or wrongdoing, the licensing board that issued your license will also conduct the investigation and disciplinary process. In New Jersey, doctors answer to the Board of Medical Examiners; nurses are accountable to the Board of Nursing (BON); dentists answer to the State Board of Dentistry, etc.
While the procedures and policies of each board may differ slightly, most disciplinary investigations against professional licensees will follow a similar process. Here's what you can expect the process to look like if you're licensed in New Jersey and receive notice of possible disciplinary action.
Disciplinary actions are almost always initiated by a formal complaint against you to your state licensing board. Almost any source can file a complaint against you, including but not limited to:
- Work colleagues
- Insurers (in cases of suspected fraud)
- Other practitioners/colleagues
- Healthcare entities
In addition, the disciplinary process may also be initiated in response to notice from a court clerk or law enforcement that you have been arrested and/or convicted of a crime.
Request for response
The board will first notify you in writing that they have received a complaint and ask you to respond to the complaint in writing. This is your first chance to tell your side of the story, providing relevant facts and context. A detailed written explanation of what happened, along with evidence, may be sufficient to convince the board not to take further action. An experienced license defense attorney can help you to draft a persuasive response.
If your written response is insufficient to diffuse the complaint (or if you fail to respond), an investigation is the next step. A Preliminary Evaluation Committee (PEC), which will oversee the process, may be appointed by the board. An investigator may also be appointed to handle the nuts and bolts of the investigation, which may include interviews with you and the other relevant people (including the person making the complaint against you), subpoenas for relevant medical records, documentation, and other fact-finding steps. During the investigative phase, you may also be asked to appear before the PEC to answer questions under oath--especially if your written response was not convincing or thorough enough.
As an alternative to a formal hearing before the judge, the board may try to negotiate a consent agreement with you if they find sufficient evidence to support the complaint. A consent order is a legally binding agreement between you and the state in which you admit to wrongdoing and agree to submit to whatever sanctions are agreed upon with the board. These could include suspension of your license, mandatory classes, treatment for substance abuse (if necessary), and other remedies. Although a consent order may or may not provide a route to reinstatement, if it is properly negotiated, it can help you get your career back on track once you have fulfilled the conditions.
If there is no settlement or consent order, the board will file a formal complaint against you with the state. At that point, you will be summoned for a formal hearing before an Administrative Law Judge. The board will present evidence against you at this hearing, and you'll be able to respond with your own evidence and testimony. An attorney may represent you at the hearing. The board does not have to prove your guilt conclusively (i.e., beyond a reasonable doubt). Most professional licensing hearings can find you guilty using the preponderance of the evidence standard (showing you're at least 51 percent likely to have committed the offense). The judge will make recommendations regarding disciplinary actions, including whether to revoke your license.
Why You Need an Experienced Attorney to Defend Your License
Many licensed healthcare professionals fail to understand the gravity of the situation when they are accused of wrongdoing. They wrongly believe they can simply "explain themselves" to the board to get them to relent. The fact is that the board is not your friend. Their job is to protect the public, and they are often willing to err on the side of caution to do so. Any attempt to resolve the matter casually could backfire, and anything you say or do could be turned against you.
On the other hand, the board also has the authority to dismiss a complaint against you at any point in the process if they are convinced you are not a threat--especially if you are cooperative, respond to the complaint compellingly, and provide evidence to support your points. This is where a skilled professional license defense attorney can make the difference in your case. Involving an attorney early in the process greatly improved your chances that the board is convinced either to dismiss the complaint entirely or agree to lesser penalties that would allow you to keep your license.
A good Cherry Hill license defense attorney can help you in any/all of the following ways:
- Act as your legal representative in all contacts with the board.
- Examine the complaint against you and gather evidence and testimonies to refute it.
- Draft a compelling initial written response to the complaint to provide the best chance for dismissal.
- Try to negotiate a settlement with the board that includes dismissing the complaint, agreeing to lenient penalties, etc.
- Negotiate the best terms for a consent order as an alternative to a hearing.
- Defend you in a formal hearing, if necessary.
Healthcare Institutions in Cherry Hill, NJ
Located next door to Camden, NJ, Cherry Hill Township has evolved into a major commercial suburban hub for Camden, NJ, and Philadelphia, PA. Home to nearly 75,000 people, Cherry Hill, hosts one main hospital along with numerous primary care clinics, urgent care centers, assisted living facilities, and dental offices across the area. These facilities have high standards for the professional and ethical conduct of their staff, and as such, they take the status of your professional license seriously. Allegations of misconduct could result in suspension or termination of employment, especially if your professional license is questioned.
The main healthcare systems in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, include:
Operating 18 hospitals and dozens of other primary care facilities across Pennsylvania and New Jersey, Jefferson Health is one of the most expansive health care systems in the region. Jefferson Cherry Hills Hospital provides the township's main emergency room facilities, along with a wide range of comprehensive health services.
Cooper University Health Care
Cooper University Health Care is a regional leader in providing New Jerseyans with comprehensive, compassionate care. Their main Cherry Hill campus along Route 70 West offers a wide array of specialty and primary care services that include cancer treatment, neurology, and more. Cooper Health also operates several other primary care, urgent care, and specialty health service locations in Cherry Hills.
The Virtua system is one of the largest overall health providers in the state, operating five major hospitals and hundreds of auxiliary locations. The Cherry Hill Virtual campus is located on Marlton Pike (Rt 70) and offers primary care, urgent care, health/wellness, occupational health services, and more.
Common Offenses or Allegations that Could Jeopardize Your License
The State of New Jersey has high standards of ethics and professionalism for the healthcare professions. Thus, most allegations that could result in you losing your license are based either on a violation of the state's code of conduct or a violation of public trust. Below are some of the most common charges that could trigger disciplinary action from a licensing board.
Many types of offenses could be categorized as fraud. Some examples include:
- Overbilling insurance or patients for services
- Using "upcoding" tactics with insurance to get more money
- Falsifying patient diagnosis for insurance purposes
- Billing the patient or insurance for services you didn't perform
- Operating outside of the scope of your license (i.e., performing services that you are not licensed to perform)
- Accepting kickbacks for referrals
- Tampering with or modifying a patient's medical record (e.g., for insurance reasons or to hide a medical error).
Patient abuse/gross neglect
This umbrella category covers any kind of neglect or abuse that could jeopardize a patient's safety, well-being, or health. Examples include:
- Physical abuse (e.g., hitting, sexual assault)
- Emotional abuse (e.g., verbally berating and threatening patients)
- Unintentional abuse (e.g., pushing a patient beyond their physical/emotional limits)
- Violating patient confidentiality
- Medical errors
"Medical errors" may refer to many types of errors ranging from simple mistakes (e.g., prescribing the wrong medication) to gross negligence (e.g., performing the wrong procedure on a patient).
Inappropriate dispensation/handling of medicine
Your career could be at risk if you are accused of prescribing and dispensing medication irresponsibly or outside the scope of your license. You can also lose your license for inaccuracies in inventory/tracking of medicines, stealing medications for personal use, and other similar offenses.
Sexual misconduct/inappropriate relationships
It is extremely unethical for medical professionals to have a sexual or romantic relationship with a patient they are treating. Unwanted sexual advances (toward colleagues or patients), sexual harassment, and sexual assault are other examples of sexual misconduct. These actions almost always lead to the loss of a license. Your career could also be in jeopardy if you're falsely accused of any type of sexual misconduct.
Patient safety is paramount in the healthcare industry, and patient safety depends on accurate record-keeping. If you are accused of keeping incomplete or sloppy patient records or falsifying records for any reason, your license could be at risk.
You risk losing your healthcare license if you use illicit drugs, misuse prescription medications, or drink to excess. The reason is that substance abuse can affect your ability to treat your patients safely. Any coworker who suspects you of substance abuse has an ethical obligation to report it.
Some criminal offenses could be considered a violation of state laws and can put your license at risk, especially if you are convicted of DWI or crimes against moral turpitude. Your licensing board must be notified of any convictions. If you fail to do so, your license could be suspended.
Professional License Defense in Cherry Hill, New Jersey
The Lento Law Firm offers professional license defense services in Cherry Hill Township and elsewhere in New Jersey to healthcare professionals who may be at risk of losing their license. We can help with any of the following:
- Nurse practitioners
- Physician assistants
- Mental health professionals
- Physical therapists
- Other licensed healthcare professionals
If you have been accused of any type of misconduct in your profession, we can help you defend your license and your livelihood. We understand the high stakes involved in these cases, and we will do everything we can to protect your rights and interests. Once you've been notified of a complaint, the sooner you contact our office, the better your chances of achieving a favorable outcome. Contact attorney Joseph D. Lento today at (888) 535-3686 to schedule a consultation.