If you are a medical professional in Pittsburgh, PA (e.g., doctor, nurse, dentist, physician assistant, etc.), and you have been accused of misconduct, you could be facing the loss of your professional license. The stakes are high because your career hinges on your license, so a loss of your license could literally mean the end of your career.
You've worked hard to get where you are today. You've invested time and money into your education, training, and field experience--and you stay current with your continuing education to make sure you keep up with the latest advances. You are passionate about giving your patients excellent care. At the same time, your job relies heavily on public trust, which is why state licensing boards hold healthcare professionals and others to exceptionally high standards of ethical and professional excellence. Violations are taken seriously and punished severely. That means that with one allegation of wrongdoing, all you've worked for could vanish.
Professional License Defense Attorney in Pittsburgh, PA
Regardless of whether the complaint is based on a misunderstanding or an honest mistake, the implications of wrongdoing can ruin your career as a healthcare professional. That's why it's crucial to hire an experienced licensed defense attorney at the first sign of trouble. With an experienced lawyer on your side, you have a much higher chance of keeping your license intact.
Attorney Joseph D. Lento is a Pennsylvania defense attorney with considerable experience helping professionals like you whose licenses are in jeopardy. Contact the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to discuss your case.
The Disciplinary Process for Medical Professionals in Pittsburgh, PA
The board that issued your license in Pennsylvania is also responsible for taking disciplinary action against you if you violate the terms of your professional licensure. If you are a licensed physician, for example, you will answer to the State Board of Medicine; if you work as a nurse, the Board of Nursing; and if you are a dentist, the State Board of Dentistry. The professional license disciplinary procedure in Pennsylvania is similar for all professions, including healthcare careers. The following summarizes the typical disciplinary process.
Most license disciplinary proceedings are triggered by a formal complaint filed with the licensing board. The State of Pennsylvania provides for members of the public to file complaints against licensed health professionals to the Department of State Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs. Most complaints against healthcare professionals come from:
- Other practitioners
- Insurers (in cases of suspected fraud)
- Healthcare facilities
If you are convicted of a crime in Pennsylvania, your conviction may be disclosed to the licensing board. This might result in an immediate suspension in many circumstances while a probe is conducted.
Once a complaint has been received, the Bureau of Professional and Occupational Affairs (BEI), will assign an investigator to investigate the matter. The BEI investigator will manage the investigation and gather evidence pertaining to the case. They may conduct interviews with the complainant and any witnesses, subpoena documents, and ask you to appear to answer questions directly. They might even visit your office unannounced. If you are asked to answer questions by an investigator, it is best to decline unless your attorney is present.
If the findings of the investigator are not sufficient to prove your guilt, the licensing board might dismiss the complaint and close the matter. If they find compelling evidence, they might decide to take further action.
If the evidence against you is strong, your state licensing board may try to negotiate a consent agreement with you instead of going to a formal hearing. A consent agreement is a formal acknowledgment of wrongdoing and a voluntary agreement to abide by the board's disciplinary recommendations. It's not always the best route, but if disciplinary action is on the table, a consent agreement may be negotiated with terms getting your license reinstated down the road. A consent agreement is legally binding, so before you sign one, we recommend consulting a knowledgeable licensed defense attorney to make sure the terms are fair.
If the complaint is not dismissed or a consent agreement signed, you will next be summoned to a formal hearing in front of a state examiner to show cause why your license should not be revoked. You may have an attorney represent and defend you at the hearing. After the hearing is over, the examiner will present recommendations to the licensing board regarding any disciplinary action. This could include a mild reprimand or a fine at best, or it could be severe enough to suspend or revoke your practice license.
Why Hire an Experienced Professional License Defense Attorney
Healthcare professionals who are accused of misconduct often underestimate the gravity of the situation, believing they can resolve the complaint informally with an explanation to the board. However, especially with healthcare professions, the licensing board looks at every complaint with a high level of scrutiny because they have a duty to protect the public. Once a complaint is filed, anything you say or do could be potentially used as evidence. The board only has to determine your guilt based on the "preponderance of the evidence" standard, meaning they only need to believe you are more than 50 percent likely to have committed the offense. This puts you at a distinct disadvantage.
An experienced professional licensed defense attorney will know how to navigate the disciplinary process to ensure your rights are protected. They will gather evidence to support your innocence and present your case in the best light possible. They will also be familiar with the licensing board members and process, which can be very helpful in getting a more favorable outcome. In many cases, the involvement of an attorney can make the difference between keeping your license and losing it.
If you are a licensed professional in Pittsburgh who is facing disciplinary action, Joseph D. Lento can help protect your license. Mr. Lento can:
- Act as your official legal counsel in all dealings with the board.
- Evaluate the complaint against you and develop a sound defense strategy.
- Gather evidence and witnesses to support your side.
- Draft a persuasive written response to the complaint, improving your chances of having the complaint dismissed with no further action.
- Negotiate with the board at multiple opportunities to dismiss the complaint or agree to lesser penalties.
- Negotiate the best possible terms in a consent agreement.
- Defend you vigorously in a formal hearing, if needed.
Healthcare Institutions in Pittsburgh, PA
With a population of 303,000 (and more than 2 million in the surrounding regions), Pittsburgh is the second-largest city in Pennsylvania behind Philadelphia. To meet the needs of this thriving population, Pittsburgh is home to multiple hospitals, primary care centers, and specialty care facilities. These companies have high ethical and professional standards and take their employees' licenses seriously.
Healthcare institutions and systems in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania include:
University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC)
The region's most expansive (and arguably most reputable) healthcare provider, UPMC is the number one hospital system in Pittsburgh, operating multiple hospital campuses and other health facilities across the area, including UPMC Mercy, UPMC Presbyterian, and UPMC Children's Hospital.
Allegheny Health Network (AHN)
Another dominant health system in the Pittsburgh area, AHN administers more than 200 healthcare facilities in the region, including 14 hospitals. In the Pittsburgh area, AHN operates Allegheny General Hospital and West Penn Hospital, along with numerous outpatient and specialty care facilities around the city.
Common Allegations that Could Jeopardize Your Professional License
Pennsylvania's state licensing bodies hold healthcare licensees to high ethical and professional standards. Most complaints that could lead to your license being revoked will have to do with a violation of state regulations or standards, an ethics violation, and/or a breach of public trust, such as unprofessional, immoral, or criminal behavior. These are some of the most common violations that can result in disciplinary actions from a licensing board.
Many types of offenses fall under the umbrella of fraud, including, but not limited to:
- "Upcoding” insurance claims in order to get more money on certain services
- Overbilling insurance (or directly overbilling patients)
- Charging or billing insurance for services not rendered
- Accepting kickbacks for referrals
- Exercising services beyond the scope your license allows
- Falsifying or modifying patient records
Patient abuse/gross neglect
This umbrella category encompasses any form of neglect or abuse which could pose a threat to the safety or well-being of a patient. Examples include:
- Physical or sexual abuse
- Emotional abuse, (e.g. verbally intimidating or threatening patients)
- Violating patient confidentiality
- Medical mistakes (e.g. prescribing incorrect medicine or doses, performing unnecessary procedures, or performing procedures in an unsafe way)
Misuse of controlled substances
Due to the potential abuse of controlled substances, healthcare professionals who prescribe and dispense them are subjected to strict regulations. Examples of drug-related violations include:
- Prescribing medicines without a valid reason to do so
- Overprescribing certain types of medications (e.g., opioids)
- Maintaining incorrect records or inventory tracking of medications
- Diverting medications for street resale or personal use
- Dispensing controlled substances without a prescription
Sexual misconduct/inappropriate relationships
It is against medical ethics for doctors and other health professionals to have romantic or sexual relationships with patients they are treating. Sexual misconduct can also include unwelcome sexual advances, harassment, or assault. These actions almost always lead to the loss or revocation of a license.
Maintaining sloppy records
Accurate record-keeping is critical to making sure patients receive safe, effective treatment. Your license may be at risk if you are accused either of falsifying patient records or keeping records in an unorganized manner.
Failing to follow treatment guidelines
Your license may be at risk if you work for a doctor and fail to follow the doctor's orders regarding a patient. You may also be disciplined if you fail to refer a patient who requires specialist care.
Because alcohol and drugs can impact your judgment and competence in treating patients, substance abuse by doctors and other health professionals is considered a violation of public trust. You could lose your license if you abuse prescription or illegal drugs, or if you drink excessively.
A criminal conviction can disqualify you from holding a medical license, especially if the crime is related to your profession or is considered a crime of moral turpitude.
Professional License Defense in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
If you are a healthcare professional in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and have been accused of doing something that violates your professional license, you need an experienced licensed defense attorney on your side. The consequences of losing your license can be devastating, not only to your career but also to your personal life. With so much at stake, it is important to have an advocate who can defend you and guide you through the complicated disciplinary process. Doing so can very well save your career.
The Lento Law Firm assists with professional license defense for any of these medical professionals practicing in Pittsburgh, PA:
Mental health professionals
Additional licensed professionals
If you're facing allegations of wrongdoing as a healthcare professional, the earlier you consult an attorney, the better your chances of finding a favorable resolution and saving your license. Call the Lento Law firm today at (888) 535-3686 to schedule a consultation.