If you are facing an investigation by a state licensing board in Pennsylvania, it's important to understand your rights and options. The first step is typically to consult with an experienced professional license defense attorney, someone who understands the disciplinary process in Pennsylvania and can work to get you the best possible outcome. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has the knowledge and experience necessary to engage the disciplinary process and minimize the damage to your career. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your case.
Why You Need a License Defense Attorney to Help You
Complaints against health professionals are unusually common, and some get dismissed without further incident. So why do you need an attorney when someone files a complaint against you? The answer is that the disciplinary process for licensed health professionals tends to skew in favor of the complainant.
Many licensed health professionals fail to understand the magnitude of a complaint against them. The licensing board is not a mediator between you and your accuser. The board's duty is to protect the public, not their licensees--and they have broad authority and a low burden of proof to invoke disciplinary actions. From the moment a complaint is filed, you're basically on the defensive and have no guaranteed presumption of innocence. You're at a disadvantage from the start. That's why most licensed professionals who "go it alone" when facing an investigation by the licensing board tend to get the worst possible outcome.
An experienced professional license defense attorney like Joseph D. Lento can level the playing field on your behalf and help you navigate the disciplinary process in a way that ensures your voice is heard and your rights are protected. Having an attorney represent you gives you a much better chance of a more favorable outcome than if you appear before the board on your own behalf. In short--hiring the right attorney might save your career.
What Happens After You're Accused of Professional Misconduct in Lower Merion, PA
For licensed physicians, nurses, PAs, pharmacists, and other licensed professionals, most disciplinary actions begin with a single complaint. The State of Pennsylvania has established a streamlined process for members of the public to file complaints against any licensed professional via the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs (BPOA). In the case of healthcare professionals, complainants are usually patients, coworkers, healthcare facilities, other practitioners, or in some cases, insurance companies.
Once a complaint has been filed and reviewed by the BPOA, your case goes through a series of stages as the state determines what happened and decides upon possible disciplinary action against you. These stages are as follows.
After the BPOA gets a complaint, they assign an investigator from the Bureau of Enforcement and Investigation (BEI) to look into the matter. This investigation typically involves talking to the complainant, interviewing witnesses, gathering evidence, and issuing subpoenas for documentation. You may also be asked to respond to the complaint in writing. In some cases, the BEI investigator may try to visit your practice, office, or place of employment unannounced. In such cases, it's best to politely decline to speak with them unless your attorney is present.
Once the investigation is concluded, the board will review the evidence to see if it substantiates the complaint. If there is insufficient evidence, the matter is usually dropped. However, if the investigator uncovers corroborating evidence, the board will move toward the next stages.
If the weight of evidence is against you, the licensing board may try to reach a consent agreement with you instead of holding a formal hearing. A consent agreement is an arrangement in which you effectively admit to wrongdoing and agree to the board's recommendations for disciplinary action. Because a consent agreement is binding, it's not always the best resolution, especially if you can provide evidence that exonerates you. However, if disciplinary action is likely, a good attorney can often negotiate terms in a consent agreement that either allows you to keep your license or offer a path toward reinstatement.
In the absence of a consent agreement, the next stage is for you to be summoned to a formal hearing before the state examiner, where you will show cause why your license should not be revoked. You have the right to legal representation during this hearing, and both sides will present arguments. At the end of the hearing, the examiner will present the board with recommendations for appropriate disciplinary actions. These disciplinary actions could range from a formal reprimand or probation to revoking your license altogether. The board makes the final determination as to what disciplinary action to take.
How an Experienced Pennsylvania License Defense Attorney Can Help You
The professional license defense process in Pennsylvania is complicated, and the stakes are high. An experienced license defense attorney can help you navigate this process and protect your livelihood.
An experienced professional license defense attorney will:
- Conduct their own investigation into the allegations against you
- Gather evidence and witnesses to support your case
- Draft a convincing written response to the complaint, along with supporting evidence (which often results in having the complaint dismissed)
- Strategize with you as to the best line of defense against the allegations
- Negotiate with the licensing board on your behalf to have the complaint dismissed or for more lenient disciplinary actions
- Negotiate the most favorable possible terms for a consent agreement
- Represent you at a formal hearing, if necessary
Healthcare Services in Lower Merion, PA
As one of the most popular suburban areas of Greater Philadelphia, Lower Merion Township serves as home to about 66,000 people, but the surrounding population registers in the millions. Numerous healthcare systems and facilities serve this community and the surrounding areas, and these facilities hold their licensed professionals to high standards of patient care. Allegations of wrongdoing or disciplinary action against one's license could jeopardize their employment.
Primary health systems and facilities serving the Lower Merion area include:
Main Line Health
A nonprofit health system serving suburban Philadelphia, Main Line Health operates several hospitals and outpatient facilities across the area. Hospitals serving Lower Merion include Lackenau Medical Center and Bryn Mawr Hospital.
Tower Health is a regional integrated healthcare provider and payer system serving the Philadelphia suburbs. Tower Health operates Chestnut Hill Hospital, located just east of Lower Merion Township, among other facilities.
Roxborough Memorial Hospital
Operated by national provider Prime Healthcare, Roxborough Memorial is a small community hospital located just east of Lower Merion, serving patients throughout the township as well as other parts of suburban Philadelphia.
What Types of Accusations Could Put Your Healthcare License in Jeopardy?
The Pennsylvania State Board of Medicine, State Board of Nursing, State Board of Dentistry, and the other licensing boards hold their professionals to high standards of professionalism and excellence. Most allegations that could endanger one's license have something to do with violating those standards or otherwise weakening the public trust. Examples of misconduct allegations include, but are not limited to:
Patient Abuse or Neglect
There is a wide range of behaviors that can be classified as patient abuse or gross neglect, including failing to provide adequate medical care, physical abuse, emotional abuse, sexual abuse, breaching patient confidentiality, prescribing/dispensing medications incorrectly, or performing procedures that are deemed unnecessary or unnecessarily risky.
It's considered a major ethical breach to engage in a romantic or sexual relationship with a patient you are treating. Other forms of sexual misconduct may include making unwanted sexual advances toward patients or colleagues, sexual harassment, etc.
Inappropriate Handling of Controlled Substances
To protect citizens from the dangers of drug abuse, Pennsylvania has implemented strict rules that medical professionals must follow when prescribing drugs. If they do not adhere to these standards, they could lose their license. Examples of controlled substance violations include:
- Prescribing medicines without a legitimate reason
- Prescribing inordinate amounts of certain medicines (e.g., opioids)
- Dispensing medications without a prescription
- Keeping inaccurate or sloppy inventories
- Diverting medications for personal use
Fraud can include a wide range of behavior, such as:
- Billing patients or insurance for services not rendered
- "Upcoding" insurance claims to get more money for certain procedures
- Modifying medical records
- Falsifying/misrepresenting your credentials
- False advertising
- Accepting kickbacks for referrals
You may be disqualified from healthcare practice if you are convicted of certain crimes--especially crimes related to your profession or crimes of moral turpitude. You may also face disciplinary action for failing to report a criminal conviction to your licensing board.
The use of illegal drugs is obviously not condoned in the healthcare profession. However, even the use of legal drugs (such as alcohol) can be problematic if it interferes with your ability to do your job or if you are caught using them on the job. Showing signs of addiction can cast doubt on your competence as a health professional. Additionally, colleagues and coworkers have a moral obligation to report you to the board if they observe you abusing alcohol or drugs.
Keeping accurate records is vital to ensure quality care for patients, avoid medical errors, and protect patient confidentiality. Sloppy record-keeping may be grounds for disciplinary action by the board.
Failing to Follow Treatment Guidelines
Examples may include failing to follow a doctor's orders regarding the care of their patient, failing to refer patients to a specialist when they need specialist care, etc.
When Should You Hire an Attorney?
If you are facing an investigation or disciplinary action by your licensing board, it is in your best interest to hire an attorney as soon as possible. An experienced professional license defense attorney can help you protect your livelihood.
The sooner you hire an attorney, the better your chance of obtaining a favorable solution that allows you to keep your license. If you wait until you receive a summons to a hearing, the board will already have had ample time to develop its case against you, putting you at a disadvantage. With the help of a seasoned attorney, you may be able to resolve the complaint quickly and avoid the hearing altogether.
Professional License Defense in Lower Merion, Pennsylvania
If you're a doctor, nurse, dentist, or other medical professional practicing in Lower Merion, your career hinges on your professional license. A complaint against your license can jeopardize all you've worked to achieve, but the right attorney can minimize the damage and give you a fighting chance to save your career. The Lento Law Firm offers professional license defense services for the following professionals in Lower Merion:
- Nurse practitioners
- Physician assistants
- Mental health professionals
- Physical therapists
- Other licensed professionals
Attorney Joseph D. Lento is a Pennsylvania professional license defense attorney who has successfully represented many defendants in situations like yours. If you're facing allegations of wrongdoing or misconduct, take action now to save your career. Call the Lento Law Firm today at (888) 535-3686 to schedule a consultation.