The Lento Law Firm Can Help Protect Your Physicians License in Hawaii
Eight years in school. Another three to seven years in residency. Taking the grueling USMLE. Suffice it to say that by the time you become a licensed physician in Hawaii, you have already invested more into your career than most people ever will. That's why it can be so scary and demoralizing to find out that the Hawaii Medical Board has received a complaint about you and is investigating you for potential misconduct.
If you find yourself in this situation, it's only natural to feel deeply worried. With all you've put into your career, a single substantiated complaint could potentially upend everything you've worked for. The State of Hawaii upholds rigorous ethical and professional standards for its licensed physicians. If the Board determines that you've breached state practice standards, violated the law, or endangered patients in any way, they have the authority to enforce disciplinary action, which could include revoking your license.
Needless to say, a lot is riding on the choices you make during this difficult time. The question is, who do you go to for help? One thing is certain--given the high stakes involved, you should not entrust a matter this serious to an inexperienced lawyer. You need a seasoned professional license defense attorney who understands Hawaii's disciplinary processes and can help you navigate them. Fortunately, with the right legal support, your chances of retaining your license significantly increase, particularly if you act promptly at the first sign of trouble.
The Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm is your most reliable choice when your Hawaii medical license is under threat. We will assess your case, advise you on your possible options, negotiate with the Board for leniency on your behalf, and strive to secure the most favorable outcome for you. Contact our offices at 888-535-3686 now to schedule a consultation.
How Licensed Physicians Are Regulated in Hawaii
In the State of Hawaii, the law setting the standards for physician licensure, regulation, conduct, and discipline is contained in Chapter 453 of the Hawaii Revised Statutes (for all intents and purposes, this serves as Hawaii's Medical Practice Act). The Hawaii Medical Board has the power to issue licenses, investigate complaints and allegations, and administer disciplinary actions when needed. If a physician breaches the policies laid out in this law, the Board can impose sanctions ranging from a formal reprimand to suspension or revocation of their medical license.
The government structure that regulates professional licensure in Hawaii is a bit complex. If you're accused of wrongdoing, you will likely deal with several different divisions during the disciplinary process. Here is a brief overview of the regulatory hierarchy in Hawaii and the various divisions with whom you may have contact.
Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA)
The Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA) is the department that provides blanket oversight for all aspects of business regulation, professional licensure, and consumer protection for the State of Hawaii.
Division of Professional and Vocational Licensing (PVL)
The Division of Professional and Vocational Licensing (PVL) is the arm of the DCCA responsible for the licensure, regulation, and enforcement of professional licenses in the State of Hawaii. The PVL oversees 25 licensing boards statewide (including the Hawaii Medical Board), providing licensure for 52 distinct professions.
Hawaii Medical Board
The Hawaii Medical Board, operating under the PVL, is in charge of regulating and licensing M.D.s and D.O.s throughout the state while also setting and ensuring adherence to the state's medical practice standards. The Board also oversees licensure for EMTs, physician assistants, and podiatrists.
Regulated Industries Complaints Office (RICO)
The RICO office is the division responsible for receiving and investigating complaints against professional licensees in Hawaii. If you are a physician accused of misconduct, this is the office that will likely conduct the investigation looking for evidence to substantiate the complaint.
Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH)
The OAH is the division responsible for holding administrative hearings for all divisions within the DCCA, including the PVL. If you are unable to resolve the complaint against you with the Hawaii Medical Board, this is the department that will oversee your formal hearing.
It's crucial to understand that any action against your medical license will be publicly listed on the Board's website and reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB). Consequently, if your license is suspended or revoked or if you face any disciplinary action, these will be visible online and searchable by patients, employers, and other state medical boards. Therefore, it's imperative to secure the legal help of an experienced professional license defense attorney to safeguard your interests and prevent these outcomes whenever possible. The team at Lento Law Firm has vast experience with these issues and is ready to assist.
Potential Risks to a Physician's License in Hawaii
Hawaii has strict codes of conduct in place for physicians to ensure patient safety. Physicians practicing in Hawaii can face the risk of disciplinary action, including license revocation for violating these rules. Some of the common allegations that could jeopardize your medical license include:
Sexual Misconduct: Unwanted sexual advances or harassment towards patients or colleagues or any romantic entanglement with a patient under your care are serious ethical offenses that could lead to license revocation.
Fraudulent Practices: Fraud in medicine can take different forms, such as illegal "upcoding" of insurance claims, overbilling patients or insurers, false patient diagnoses for insurance purposes, billing for non-rendered services, or accepting referral kickbacks.
Inadequate Record-Keeping: Accurate patient medical records are integral to safe healthcare delivery. Deliberately altered or incorrect medical records can have severe repercussions for physicians.
Substance Abuse: Substance abuse by physicians raises concerns about their decision-making abilities, especially if they are reported to be under the influence while on duty.
Prescription Mismanagement: Illicit practices such as keeping inaccurate medical inventories, overprescribing certain medications like opioids, or issuing prescriptions without a valid medical reason can result in Board disciplinary action.
Patient Abuse or Neglect: Allegations of physical, mental, or verbal abuse of a patient or any act or omission leading to unnecessary patient risk can endanger a physician's license.
Criminal Convictions: Certain criminal offenses, particularly felonies, and crimes of moral turpitude, can disqualify you from holding a physician's license. Failure to self-report any conviction to the Board can also lead to disciplinary action, even if the offense itself would not have endangered your license.
Not All Accusations Lead to License Revocation
While all accusations of misconduct should be taken seriously, not every allegation necessarily results in license loss. The Board considers various factors when deciding on disciplinary actions, and many of these measures may still allow you to retain your physician's license. Potential outcomes include:
- License Suspension: A temporary prohibition on your practice of medicine.
- Practice Restrictions: Limiting your work scope or barring certain activities.
- Monetary Penalties: The Board can levy fines against you.
- Supervised Probation: Strict monitoring of your practice might be required by the Board.
- Formal Reprimand: For minor infractions, the Board might issue an official admonishment, which appears on your record but does not restrict your license.
It's vital to understand that even if your medical license remains intact, these lesser penalties can cast a negative light on your career as they become part of your public record, viewable by potential patients, employers, healthcare institutions, and licensing boards in other states. Such penalties could potentially impact people's willingness to work with you and limit your professional growth. The Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm can often intervene early in your investigation to mitigate these risks and possibly prevent sanctions from appearing on your record.
Challenges Posed by Multi-State Licensure
Hawaii is one of 39 states participating in the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact, a voluntary agreement facilitating medical licensure across multiple states. While the Compact provides a streamlined way to extend healthcare services to underserved areas (and offers physicians more flexibility), it can also pose challenges for physicians facing misconduct allegations. If the Hawaii Medical Board imposes disciplinary action on your Hawaii license, it could affect your licensure in other states—and vice versa.
In situations where potential disciplinary action spans multiple states, it's beneficial to engage a professional license defense law firm with a national reach. The Lento Law Firm assists licensed physicians nationwide who are dealing with allegations of professional misconduct. Our team can help you navigate the complexities and regulatory procedures not only in Hawaii but also in any state where you are licensed to practice.
Areas We Serve in Hawaii
While most people recognize island names like Oahu, Maui, and the "Big Island" of Hawaii, the State of Hawaii actually consists of more than 130 islands across 1500 miles of ocean. Even so, the state is home to more than 1.4 million people, making it the 13th most densely populated state in the Union. Thus, there is a consistent need for quality healthcare in the islands and plenty of opportunities for physicians. While the Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team can assist physicians facing disciplinary action in any part of the islands, most of our clients understandably live and work in the larger population centers of the state, which include:
As Hawaii's state capital and largest city, Honolulu anchors the largest population center in the state. Located on Oahu, Honolulu's base population is about 350,000 people, but the surrounding urban metro consists of more than 1 million--representing more than two-thirds of the total population of Hawaii. Renowned for its vibrant blend of Asian, Polynesian, and Western cultures, Honolulu is a hub of art, cuisine, and music. The city's famous Waikiki Beach draws millions of tourists each year with its iconic Diamond Head backdrop and surf-ready waves, while the poignant Pearl Harbor memorial reminds visitors of the city's historical significance. Healthcare systems serving the Honolulu metropolitan area include Hawaii Pacific Health, The Queens Health System, and Kuakini Health System.
Home to about 47,000 people, the City of Hilo anchors the Big Island, the largest island in the Hawaiian chain. Known for its lush green landscape, dramatic coastline cliffs, and active volcanoes, Hilo provides breathtaking scenery along with ample recreational opportunities. As Hawaii's second-largest city (and by far the largest on the Big Island), Hilo features a vibrant blend of historical sites, museums, galleries, and cultural festivals. The primary healthcare provider in the Hilo area is Hawaii Health Systems Corporation (HHSC) East Hawaii Region, which operates Hilo Medical Center.
The census-designated community of Kailua-Kona is located on the western shore of the Big Island and provides abundant recreational activities such as hiking, surfing, diving, fishing, and more. The town is also a gateway to nearby tourist attractions such as Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park and Mauna Kea Observatories. Kailua-Kona is home to about 19,000 people and serves as the retail hub for West Hawaii. Primary health services in the area are provided by HHSC West Hawaii Region, which operates Kona Community Hospital.
Island of Maui
Maui is the second-largest of Hawaii's islands and consists of four major population centers: Kahului, Wailuku, Lahaina, and Kihei. The largest city on Maui is Kahului (population 28,000), home to the island's main airport. While much smaller than Honolulu, the Island of Maui still supports a thriving local culture and tourist industry. Primary healthcare services are provided by Maui Health, which oversees two hospitals: Maui Memorial Medical Center in Wailuku and Kula Hospital in Kula.
Island of Molokai
The small island of Molokai is home to about 8,000 people and serves as a cultural hub for the preservation of ancient Hawaiian customs. It is known for its untouched natural beauty, including stunning views of sea cliffs and stretches of secluded beaches along the eastern shore. The primary healthcare provider in Molokai is The Queens Health System, which operates Molokai General Hospital.
Hawaii's Physician Disciplinary Process
The DCCA oversees a regulatory framework intended to maintain professional standards across various fields, including medicine. As a physician operating in Hawaii, if you are implicated in professional misconduct, you will likely encounter the following steps.
Typically, disciplinary proceedings are initiated with a formal complaint lodged against a practitioner with the DCCA. Complaints can be filed by anyone, but in the case of physicians, they are often submitted by patients, patient's families, peers, other medical professionals, insurance companies, and so on.
Upon receipt and preliminary assessment of the complaint by the DCCA, it is handed over to the Regulatory Industries Complaints Office (RICO). An investigator is assigned to gather facts and search for evidence supporting the allegations. This stage can span several months and may involve interviews with the complainant and any witnesses, soliciting a written response from you, issuing subpoenas for documents, and conducting site inspections, among others.
If the evidence against you is compelling, the Board may propose a settlement agreement negotiation in lieu of a formal hearing. This binding agreement means you essentially admit to wrongdoing and willingly accept the Board's disciplinary recommendations. While this may not be suitable for everyone, and any penalties might still become public record, it offers an opportunity for your attorney to negotiate for leniency and a more favorable outcome, ideally one that either enables you to retain your license or provides a path towards reinstatement. The Lento Law Firm Team can negotiate for the most advantageous settlement terms if this is deemed the best course of action. (Many disciplinary actions are resolved through a settlement agreement.)
If a settlement cannot be reached (or none is offered), the case is referred to the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH), where a formal hearing is scheduled. The Board presents its case and evidence against you, and you (preferably via an attorney) present your arguments and evidence refuting the complaint. Once the arguments and evidence are presented, the hearing officer submits their findings and recommendations to the Board.
The Board, after considering the recommendations, makes the final decision and personally informs you of the disciplinary actions to be taken. These actions can range from a formal reprimand to license restrictions or even complete revocation of your license to practice.
If you believe that the Board's decision against you was based on procedural error or your being denied due process, you can appeal the decision to the Circuit Court within 30 days.
Throughout this disciplinary process, the Board has the authority to resolve, settle, or dismiss the complaint against you. The License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm can engage in strategic negotiations throughout the disciplinary process, often helping clients resolve complaints before they escalate to the hearing stage.
The Crucial Role of Legal Representation in Protecting Your Medical License
While you certainly have the right of self-representation in license disciplinary proceedings, it's highly inadvisable. The Board's primary objective is to safeguard public health and safety, and they only have to prove your guilt based on a preponderance of the evidence (in other words, not "beyond a reasonable doubt"). You're not guaranteed the presumption of innocence, and if the Board makes a mistake, they're more likely to err on the side of caution and revoke your license if they feel you might present a threat to public safety.
Securing representation from an experienced license defense attorney can help level the playing field and significantly influence the outcome of your case. The Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm can assist you in the following ways:
- Assess the complaint and evidence against you, and formulate a strategic plan to counter it;
- Advise you on your options and the optimal strategy for resolving your case;
- Collect evidence and gather witnesses in your defense;
- Negotiate with the Board at various stages to get the complaint dismissed or secure lenient penalties;
- Bargain for favorable terms in a settlement agreement; and
- Vigorously defend you at the hearing, if necessary.
Securing the Best Legal Representation for Your Hawaii Medical License
Not all attorneys are equal when it comes to defending your physician's license. While any licensed attorney can legally represent you in a license defense case, their proficiency in handling such matters can significantly vary. For example, an attorney whose expertise lies in family law may lack the specific knowledge of administrative law required to navigate disciplinary proceedings effectively. Therefore, to enhance your chances of a positive outcome, it's highly recommended to seek out an attorney with experience in professional license defense. Such an attorney will have a deep understanding of licensing boards, their operational procedures, and the nuances of administrative hearings.
The Lento Law Firm Is Here to Protect Your Physician's License
As a physician practicing in Hawaii, regardless of whether the complaint against you stems from a misunderstanding, a genuine error, a personal grudge, or an outright false accusation, the implications for your career are tremendously high. Each step you take in this process without legal guidance increases the risk of license suspension or revocation. If you find yourself facing allegations of professional misconduct, the sooner you hire a skilled professional license defense attorney, the better. Some physicians delay engaging legal representation until they're on the brink of a formal hearing, not realizing that they may have inadvertently reduced their chances for a more lenient resolution. By involving the Lento Law Firm Team at the first sign of trouble, you have a much better chance to negotiate for a more favorable outcome, preferably one that keeps your license intact.
The Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm has nationwide experience defending medical professionals like you who are grappling with disciplinary proceedings against their license. Don't delay in taking action to protect your future. To discuss your case and explore your options, contact the Lento Law Firm at 888-535-3686 or reach out via our online form.