As a physician in Washington, it can be concerning to learn you are facing disciplinary action from the Washington Medical Commission. You have devoted your life to caring for the health and safety of your patients, and you likely feel like you have always put the needs of your patients above your own. Because of your dedication to your career and your patients, it could be a complete shock to hear disciplinary actions have been brought against you as a physician. Even if dealing well under stress is a crucial part of your job, disciplinary actions can still be overwhelming. You may be uncertain about the proceedings and consequences you may face as a result of charges brought against you and unsure of your next steps.
All license disciplinary actions are serious, particularly if you are a physician. The esteem and trust given to physicians like yourself make allegations against them even more concerning. As a physician, you are intelligent and competent, and you need to ensure you address the disciplinary actions brought against you in a way that maximizes your chance of a successful outcome. You cannot afford to put your trust in an unqualified attorney when your medical license is on the line.
The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team attorneys are experienced in defending physicians in nationwide against disciplinary proceedings. We appreciate all you have done to become a physician and respect the commitment you have made to giving your patient's the best care, which is why we will be your strongest legal advocate. When working with us, we will thoroughly evaluate all aspects of your case, openly discuss your options with you, and work tirelessly to get the best outcome for you, your family, and your patients.
Washington Medical Commission License Proceedings
The Washington Medical Commission is the state medical board of Washington. It is responsible for all things related to medical licensing, complaints against a physician's medical license, physician education, and rulemaking. The Washington Medical Commission submits information regarding your license to the Washington Department of Health, which maintains a public database of the licensing members for all medical professionals in the state. The database is searchable, allowing anyone, patients and potential employers alike, to check the status of your license and view the status of any disciplinary actions against you.
Washington Medical Commission Rules and Standards
The Washington Medical Commission provides physicians with all of the laws, regulations, policy statements, guidelines, and interpretive statements that they are required to follow. The rules governing your Washington physician license disciplinary charges are detailed in these laws and regulations. The Washington state laws for physicians can be found in the Revised Code of Washington (RCW). The Washington Medical Commission cites the following as relevant sections for practicing physicians:
- RCW 18.71 Physicians
- RCW 18.71B Interstate Medical Licensure Compact
- RCW 18.130 Regulation of Health Professions – Uniform Disciplinary Act
- RCW 26.44.030 Abuse of Children and Adult Dependent Persons
- RCW 34.05 Administrative Procedures Act
- RCW 42.56 Public Records Act
- RCW 70.02 Medical Records – Health Care Information Access and Disclosure
- RCW 74.34 Abuse of Vulnerable Adults
The Washington Administrative Code (WAC) is also important for physicians to be knowledgeable of. WAC provides interpretive support for physicians on the abovementioned laws. For physicians, the relevant sections of the WAC include:
- WAC 246-12 Administrative Procedures and Requirements for Credentialed Health Care Providers
- WAC 246-15 Whistleblower Complaints in Health Care Settings
- WAC 246-919 Physicians
The Washington Medical Commission also provides policy statements, guidelines, and interpretive statements. It defines these important documents as follows:
Interpretive Statement: Interpretive statement means a written expression of the opinion of an agency as to the meaning of a statute or other provision of law, of a court decision, or of an agency order.
Policy Statement: A policy statement is a written description of the current approach of an agency to the implementation of a statute or other provision of law, of a court decision, or of an agency order, including, where appropriate, the agency's current practice, procedure, or method of action based upon that approach.
Guidelines: A set of recommended practices designed by the Medical Commission to assist practitioners with appropriate health care for specific circumstances.
These documents published by the Washington Medical Commission cover all topics related to the practice of medicine, including clinical practice, prescribing, ethics and professionalism, licensing, and medical records.
While these documents do not have the force of law, they can impact your disciplinary proceedings because they can shed light on how these laws and regulations are interpreted and establish accepted standards of care in the state of Washington.
Confidence in Your Defense of Washington Physician Charges
As a physician, you are used to being in control and taking the lead in medical situations that the average person would find terrifying. Exuding confidence is an important part of your job. Facing charges against your medical license can feel like a hit to your confidence, but you cannot let that impact how you defend your medical license against any allegations.
Choosing to retain defense counsel that is well-versed in Washington Medical Commission proceedings is crucial to entering your defense with the confidence you need to succeed. The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team will advise you of all your rights, guide you through all available options, and support you through all aspects of the Washington Medical Commission's disciplinary proceedings. Call the Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team to gain confidence in your defense.
What Washington Physician License Disciplinary Charges Mean
Similar to charges brought against you in a court of law, disciplinary charges brought by the Washington Medical Commission are just allegations, not a determination of guilt. Having disciplinary charges against you does not automatically mean your license will be suspended or permanently revoked. Like a court case, you will be able to present your case and provide mitigating or exonerating information, evidence, or testimony to the Washington Medical Commission before it makes a determination.
The Nature of Washington Medical Commission Charges
While there are similarities between court actions and Washington Medical Commission disciplinary charges, there are many differences in how the proceedings work. Washington Medical Commission disciplinary charges are handled within the Washington Medical Commission; they are not adjudicated through the court system, although legal action may be taken separately.
These disciplinary actions are administrative proceedings, according to the rules and procedures detailed in the standards and rules section above, not the traditional court system. This means that timelines for responses, methods for presenting evidence and calling witnesses, and other aspects of your case will be very different than they would be in court. Having competent defense counsel that is specifically experienced in Washington Medical Commission proceedings is crucial; having just any attorney will not suffice.
What Allegations Put a Washington Physician License at Risk?
The Revised Code of Washington, at RCW 18.130.180., details the various types of unprofessional conduct that can put your medical license at risk. Some examples of unprofessional conduct include:
- The commission of any act involving moral turpitude, dishonesty, or corruption relating to the practice of medicine (regardless of whether the act constitutes a crime)
- The misuse of alcohol, controlled substances, or legend drugs
- Abuse or neglect of a patient
- Sexual contact with a patient
- Prescribing drugs in excess or without a legitimate reason
- The betrayal of practitioner-patient privilege
- Failing to meet the standards of care accepted by the Washington Medical Commission
- Dishonesty during the medical license application process
- Inadequate recordkeeping
- Failing to meet continuing medical education requirements
- False, fraudulent, or misleading advertising
What is the Disciplinary Process for the Washington Medical Commission?
Disciplinary actions against your Washington medical license can be a multistep process if the Washington Medical Commission decides to investigate the allegations against you. The Washington Medical Commission has about 1,800 complaints each year; if the complaint falls within their jurisdiction, it will be entered into its database and thoroughly reviewed, and you may be subject to further proceedings. About 800 of those complaints result in an investigation.
Washington Medical Commission Complaints
- Patients' family or friends
- Mandatory license and facility reports
- Pharmacy reports
- Malpractice payments
- Other healthcare providers
Under RCW 43.70.075, the identity of the complainant can be kept confidential unless the Washington Medical Commission cannot investigate the case without identifying the person who filed the complaint.
A panel of three Medical Commissioners from the Washington Medical Commission will conduct an initial review of the complaint against you to determine if the complaint indicates a violation of state law, namely the Uniform Disciplinary Act. The Washington Medical Commission has 21 days to determine if an investigation is warranted in your case.
If the Washington Medical Commission can close the complaint with no further action required for a variety of reasons, including:
- No violation of state law is found in the complaint
- The complaint is about a billing or fee dispute in which the Washington Medical Commission does not have the authority
- Not enough information was provided to make a decision
- The complaint is referred to another board of commission
- The issue in the complaint was resolved through another method
A closed case may be reopened if a party submits a Reconsideration Request within 30 days of the receipt of the closure notification. The reconsideration request must include new information that was not included in the original complaint. If the request is denied, this is the final action, and there is no further appeals process.
If the panel of Medical Commissioners finds a violation of the law, it has the authority to open an investigation.
Washington Medical Commission Investigations
Complaints that move forward into the investigation phase are assigned to an unbiased investigator. How cases are assigned is dependent on the nature of the complaint and the location of the incident that led to the complaint. Investigators have clinical training, experience, and knowledge to help them properly assess complex standard-of-care cases.
The investigation will include the review of a variety of materials, including your licensing and training history. The investigator will also collect and review any relevant medical records, conduct interviews of complainants, witnesses, or other relevant parties, and obtain any additional evidence they deem necessary. All collected information is compiled into a single report to be reviewed by the Washington Medical Commissioner. Throughout the investigative process, investigators work with attorneys who will assist in data gathering (for example, issuing subpoenas) and provide any legal guidance the panel may need.
During the investigation phase, the Washington Medical Commission can issue a summary suspension on your license or issue a temporary practice permit restricting or limiting your ability to practice medicine. This authority is granted in RCW 18.130.050. If either of these is issued, the panel of Medical Commissioners must hold a show cause hearing within 14 days. The suspension or restriction will remain effective until disciplinary proceedings against you are completed.
Once the investigation is completed, the panel of Medical Commissioners will make a determination. The panel can then issue a Statement of Charges (SOC), a Stipulation to Informal Disposition (STID), or an Agreed Order.
Statement of Charges and Telling Your Side of the Story to the Washington Medical Commission
If a SOC has been filed against you, a hearing will be scheduled where you can tell your side of the story. And SOC is a document that formally charges you with unprofessional conduct or impairment. Once you receive the SOC, a hearing will be scheduled where you can present your case.
Being the subject of a SOC is extremely stressful, but delaying your response or failing to respond to the charges can have serious consequences. The Washington Medical Commission could file an Order of Default against you if you failed to answer the SOC or participate in the adjudicative process. If you fail to appear at your scheduled hearing, the Washington Medical Commission can file a Waiver Order, which means that by failing to attend your hearing, you have waived your right to a hearing entirely. The Order of Default will impose sanctions against your license.
The Washington Medical Commission is fully aware that emotions run high in scary and complicated medical situations, and sometimes physicians may be unfairly accused. You likely became a doctor because you are driven and passionate about caring for others. The Washington Medical Commission understands there can be miscommunications and confusion that have resulted in the complaint against you. While the Washington Medical Commission takes all complaints extremely seriously and serves to protect Washingtonians' health and well-being, they will want to hear the facts from you and understand your perspective. Presenting your side of the story is crucial to success in your case; the Lento Law Firm's highly experienced Professional License Defense Team can help you prepare and strategize interactions with the Washington Medical Commission.
Washington Medical Commission Proceedings Outcomes and Determinations
There are a variety of ways in which the Washington Medical Commission can conclude disciplinary proceedings against you. If the Washington Medical Commission panel determines you have not committed an act of unprofessional conduct, the case can be closed.
If the Washington Medical Commission finds that you are guilty or you wish to come to an agreement prior to the full proceeding, there are a few potential options and outcomes.
A Stipulation to Informal Disposition (STID) is an option you can pursue at any before the Washington Medical Commission makes a determination. A STID is a document stating that allegations have been made and contains an agreement by the physician licensee that they will take specific remedial actions to resolve the concerns raised by the allegations.
Alternatively, at the end of the disciplinary proceeding, the Washington Medical Commission and the physician licensee can sign an Agreed Order (AO), also referred to as a Stipulated Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law, and Agreed Order. This document resolves the Statement of Charges and is an agreement by which the physician licensee must comply with certain terms and conditions to protect the public.
If the Washington Medical Commission has determined you are guilty, and none of the above options are appropriate, it may suspend, revoke, or urge you to voluntarily surrender your medical license.
Washington Medical Commission Compliance Monitoring Program
If you have been sanctioned with an AO or a STID, you will be required to participate in the Washington Medical Commission's Compliance Monitoring Program (CMP). The staff of the CMP are responsible for assuring you are compliant with the requirements outlined in your disciplinary action (either the AO or the STID).
As a respondent of the CMP, you will participate in a compliance orientation. The orientation involves reviewing the details of your disciplinary action with CMP staff, who will then explain the Washington Medical Commission's expectations and answer any questions you may have. Additionally, you will be required to appear before the panel of Medical Commissioners annually. At this appearance, you will discuss your challenges and achievements following your disciplinary action.
If your disciplinary action includes a violation of a standard of care, you will likely be required to undergo periodic reviews. The CMP staff will visit your practice, interview both you and your staff, and collect a sample of medical records that include the issues related to your case. You can expect two or more reviews to be conducted while you are part of the CMP.
Why You Need a Physician License Defense Attorney in Washington
Having a physician license defense attorney from the Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team is important to ensure you achieve the best possible outcome in defending your license. The Washington Medical Commission is a state agency with significant resources dedicated to investigating and pursuing physician disciplinary action. Their full-time staff has years of experience, which you cannot defend against alone.
How a Physician License Defense Attorney Can Help You in Washington
The Lento Law Firm's Professional License Defense Team can provide many types of support through Washington Medical Commission disciplinary proceedings against you. Our Team has extensive experience fostering positive communication between physicians facing disciplinary action and the Washington Medical Commission. This open communication reduces hostility and encourages early negotiations and mutually agreed-upon resolutions.
Additionally, our Professional License Defense Team will assist you in gathering the evidence you need to effectively present a strong and persuasive case. The Team also plays a significant role in any hearings related to your case; we are there to advocate for you before the panel of Washington Medical Commissioners.
There is no step of Washington Medical Commission disciplinary proceedings you should go through alone. You can rely on our Team to help you every step of the way.
Areas We Serve in Washington
The Lento Law Firm Professional Defense Team has helped physicians facing disciplinary charges throughout the state of Washington, including physicians practicing in the following areas:
Our Team has worked with physicians throughout Washington's major healthcare systems, including the University of Washington medical centers, Virginia Mason medical centers, and Providence medical centers.
License Defense Team for Washington Physician Charges
Whether you are a dermatologist or a surgeon, all allegations of wrongdoing can be a threat to your medical license. Our Professional License Defense Team will fight to protect your license, your livelihood, and your future. Our experienced attorneys will be your best defense against the Washington Medical Commission and help you achieve the best possible outcome. To retain The Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team, call 888.535.3686 or contact us online today.