As a doctor, nurse, physician assistant, dentist, or other qualified medical professional working in Philadelphia, PA, you have worked hard to establish a gratifying and lucrative career. You have dedicated your life to giving excellent treatment to your patients, and you're continuing to learn new things to keep up with the times. While your career may be rewarding, it's also important to remember that the stakes are quite high for licensed medical professionals. Your job relies on public trust, and if your state licensing board feels that trust has been violated by allegations of misconduct, your license to practice could be easily jeopardized. Even one complaint against you could threaten your professional license, which puts your entire career at risk.
Professional License Defense Attorney in Philadelphia, PA
It doesn't matter if the complaint arises from a misunderstanding with a patient, a lapse in judgment on your part, or any other issue. If you are a licensed professional in Pennsylvania and you are accused of misconduct, it is important to understand the possible implications for your license. State licensing boards are very powerful and can administer punishment easily, so you need a professional license defense attorney to make sure your interests are looked out for. With an experienced lawyer, you have a much higher chance of achieving a successful outcome and keeping your license.
If you are facing allegations of substance abuse, gross negligence, sexual misconduct, or other violations--or if your license is in danger because of a criminal conviction--the best way to protect your license is to hire a professional license defense attorney in Philadelphia, PA. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has experience helping professionals like you with navigating the disciplinary process and achieving favorable results. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your case.
The Disciplinary Process for Medical Professionals in Philadelphia, PA
The licensing board that issued your professional licensure in Pennsylvania is also responsible for administering disciplinary actions for misconduct or violations. If you are a doctor, for example, you will answer to the State Board of Medicine; if you are a nurse, the Board of Nursing; and if you are a dentist, the State Board of Dentistry. The disciplinary process in Pennsylvania is fairly uniform for all licensed professionals, including medical professionals. Here is a summary of the standard disciplinary procedure.
Most board disciplinary proceedings begin when a complaint is filed against one's license. Pennsylvania allows members of the public to file complaints against licensed physicians to the Department of State Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs. Although anyone can initiate a complaint against a healthcare professional, it is most often initiated by one of these:
- Other practitioners/colleagues
- Work colleagues
- Insurers (in cases of suspected fraud)
- Healthcare facilities
In addition, if you are convicted of a crime in Pennsylvania, your conviction may be reported to your licensing board. In many cases, this can trigger an automatic suspension while an investigation is conducted.
After a complaint has been received and processed by the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs, an investigator from the Bureau of Enforcement and Investigation will be assigned to the case. The BEI investigator will supervise the investigation and evidence gathering. This may include interviews with complainants and witnesses, subpoenas for documents, etc. They will also likely invite you to respond formally to the complaint in writing. They may request to interview you in person, or they may come unannounced to your office. We recommend that you decline to answer any questions from investigators unless your attorney is present. Anything you say could be used to strengthen the licensing board's case against you.
If the investigator cannot find enough evidence to support the complaint, the licensing board may dismiss the complaint entirely. If, however, sufficient evidence is found, they may move to the next stage of discipline.
Your state licensing board may opt to try and negotiate a settlement agreement with you in lieu of a hearing at any stage during the investigation, but especially if the evidence against you is strong. A consent agreement is essentially an admission of guilt and an agreement to comply with certain remedies as prescribed by the board. A consent agreement isn't always the best choice, but it can be helpful in situations where disciplinary action is likely provided. It provides a pathway to reinstatement of your license. We recommend consulting an experienced licensed defense attorney before signing any consent agreement.
If the investigation does not result in a consent agreement or dismissal of the complaint, you will be summoned for a formal hearing in front of a state hearing examiner to present cause why the board shouldn't revoke your license. You may have an attorney represent you at the hearing. When the hearing concludes, the examiner will make recommendations to the licensing board regarding disciplinary action. These could be as simple as a formal warning or fine or as serious as suspension or revocation.
Why Hire an Experienced Professional License Defense Attorney
Healthcare professionals who are accused of misconduct often fail to grasp the severity of the situation, mistakenly believing they can resolve any misunderstanding by "explaining themselves" to the board. In actuality, the licensing board's first aim is to safeguard the general public, and they will begin looking for evidence against you as soon as a complaint is filed. Anything you say or do at this point could be potentially used as evidence. The board, on the other hand, has the discretion to impose a penalty according to a "preponderance of the evidence," which means they only need to be 51 percent confident in your guilt (as opposed to "beyond a reasonable doubt").
In short, you are not guaranteed anything resembling a "fair trial" here. You're entering the process at a disadvantage.
The best way to make sure your rights are protected, and your side of the story fairly considered, is to have a skilled professional license defense attorney represent you. In many cases, the attorney can negotiate directly with the board to have your complaint dismissed or to agree to more lenient penalties. Your odds of resolving the complaint favorably go up considerably with an experienced attorney in your corner.
Philadelphia license defense attorney Joseph D. Lento can help protect your license in situations like these. He will:
- Take on the role of your official legal representative in all dealings with the board.
- Gather evidence and witnesses in support of your position.
- Draft a compelling written response to the complaint (which is often enough to have the complaint dismissed without further action).
- Negotiate with the board directly to dismiss the complaint or agree to lesser penalties.
- Negotiate the best possible terms in a consent agreement.
- If necessary, defend you at a formal hearing.
Healthcare Institutions in Philadelphia, PA
The largest city in Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA is home to more than 1.6 million people, with more than 6 million living in the surrounding metropolitan area. This area is served by multiple hospitals, primary care facilities, and specialty care facilities. These organizations have high ethical and professional standards and take their employees' licensing credentials seriously. Allegations of misconduct may result in a dismissal from employment, especially if your professional license is jeopardized.
Healthcare organizations in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania include, but are not limited to:
Trinity Health Mid-Atlantic
One of the largest health systems in the region, Trinity Health Mid-Atlantic operates Mercy Health System Hospital, along with numerous outpatient and specialty facilities throughout the Philly area.
One of the state's premier healthcare providers, Penn Medicine operates numerous hospital locations, outpatient services, and multi-specialty centers across Philadelphia and beyond. Penn Medicine operates the historic Pennsylvania Hospital, the first hospital in the nation, founded by Ben Franklin in 1751.
Another Philadelphia mainstay, Jefferson Health administers the Thomas Jefferson University Hospitals along with numerous outpatient and specialty facilities regionally.
Primarily devoted to healthcare in the Philadelphia area, Temple Health operates Temple University Hospital, the largest hospital by number of beds in the city.
A regional integrated healthcare provider, Tower Health operates Chestnut Hill Hospital in north Philadelphia, as well as other facilities in the suburban areas.
Roxborough Memorial Hospital
Operated by Prime Health, Roxborough Memorial is a small community hospital serving patients in northwest Philly.
Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
The first children's hospital in the nation, CHOP offers specialized treatment for children and childhood diseases, and now includes 50 locations across Pennsylvania and New Jersey.
Common Allegations that Could Endanger Your Healthcare Career
Pennsylvania's state licensing boards hold their licensees to the highest professional and ethical standards. Most claims that can lead to the loss of your license stem from a violation of regulations, ethics violations, or some other breach of public trust. These are the most common offenses that could result in disciplinary action by a licensing board.
Fraud can be applied to many different offenses, such as:
- "Upcoding" insurance claims to receive more money for specific services
- Overbilling insurance or directly overbilling patients
- Charging for services not provided
- Accepting kickbacks for referrals
- Performing services that are not within the scope of your license, such as prescribing medication when you're not a licensed physician
- Modifying or falsifying patient records
Gross neglect or abuse
This umbrella category includes any type of neglect or abuse that could jeopardize the safety and 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 past their emotional/physical limit)
- Violating patient confidentiality
- Medical errors (including prescribing the wrong medicine/wrong dose or performing unneeded procedures)
Improper prescribing or dispensing of controlled substances
Healthcare professionals who prescribe or dispense controlled substances are subject to strict regulation due to the possibility of abuse. Violations in this category may include, but are not limited to:
- Prescription of medications without a valid medical purpose
- Prescribing an inordinate amount of certain medications (e.g. opioids)
- Inaccurate inventory tracking of medications
- Pilfering medical supplies for personal or street use
- Dispensing controlled substances without a prescription
Sexual misconduct/inappropriate relationships
It is a serious ethical violation for medical professionals to have romantic or sexual relationships with the people they are treating. Other forms of sexual misconduct include unwelcome sexual advances (toward patients or colleagues), sexual harassment, sexual assault, etc. These allegations generally result in losing your license if there is evidence to support the complaint.
The healthcare industry is committed to patient safety, and accurate records are a key part of that. Your license could be at stake if you are charged with falsifying records or keeping medical records in an erratic or haphazard manner.
Failure to follow treatment recommendations
If you work for a doctor and fail to follow the doctor's orders for treatment of a patient, your license could be jeopardized. You could also be disciplined if a patient's condition mandates a specialist and you fail to refer them.
In the medical professions, substance abuse is considered to be a breach of public trust because it can impair your judgment and affect your ability to treat patients safely. If you abuse prescription drugs, misuse illegal drugs, or drink to excess, your healthcare license could be suspended or revoked. Any colleague or coworker who suspects you are abusing substances also has an ethical responsibility to report it to your licensing board.
A criminal conviction can result in a healthcare professional losing their license, particularly if it is related to their profession or if it is a crime of moral turpitude. The courts may automatically report any convictions to your licensing board, triggering an automatic temporary suspension of your license.
Professional License Defense in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Any allegation of misconduct against a medical professional in Philadelphia should be treated seriously. If the state licensing board has sufficient evidence to prove your guilt, your license may be suspended or revoked. An experienced licensed defense attorney can assist you in navigating the complicated disciplinary process and quite possibly save your career.
The Lento Law Firm assists with professional license defense for any of these medical professionals practicing in Philadelphia, PA:
- Nurse practitioners
- Physician assistants
- Mental health professionals
- Physical therapists
- Additional licensed professionals
Do not wait to be summoned for a formal hearing to hire a lawyer if you are accused of misconduct. You have a better chance of protecting yourself and your livelihood by getting attorney Joseph D. Lento involved as early as possible. Call the Lento Law firm today at (888) 535-3686 to schedule a consultation.