If you are a physician facing a complaint or other potential discipline in Arkansas, you likely have many concerns and questions. Most physicians will face some type of complaint at some point in their careers, and over 3,000 physicians a year face disciplinary board actions in the US. Many other physicians will face board investigations without formal charges. The Lento Law Firm Team is experienced in representing physicians and medical professionals facing disciplinary issues in Arkansas.
Types of Disciplinary Actions
Disciplinary proceedings typically deal with allegations of incompetence, illegal or unprofessional conduct. These proceedings can result in serious discipline, up to and including the denial or revocation of the right to practice medicine. The Arkansas State Medical Board, under AR Code § 17-95-410, may take the following actions against a licensed physician in descending order of severity:
- Revocation of License – The Board may revoke a license and not allow the physician to continue practicing medicine.
- Suspension of License – The Board may suspend a license for up to a year.
- Probation – The Board may “impose a probation allowing the licensee to continue practicing under terms and conditions found to be in the best interest of the accused and the general public.”
- Reprimand – The Board issues a letter of reprimand or concern about the physician. This becomes part of that physician's disciplinary record and can be accessed by employers, patients, members of the public, and other parties.
- Fine – The Board orders a physician to pay a particular amount as a penalty.
Obviously, the loss of a license or restriction placed on a license most concerns a physician facing a disciplinary charge. But other forms of discipline can have a serious effect on a physician's reputation and livelihood. The Arkansas Board of Medicine announces and publishes all physician disciplines on its website, and the state's media outlets appear to closely monitor these opinions and publish stories on all types of discipline. In this type of environment, it becomes vital to avoid formal charges or to agree on the lowest level of discipline possible given the allegations.
Cost of Discipline is Considerable
Physicians should remember that even a reprimand or other lower-level discipline can have a detrimental effect on the physician's career. Unlike many other professions, physicians are obligated to disclose past negative licensing events repeatedly to agencies, employers, and insurers. So, every time a physician faces credentialing, applies for professional insurance, or seeks admission or recertification to a Board, they are faced with explaining a past reprimand. Because of the potential costs of a charge over a lifetime, it is a sound investment to vigorously defend your license and reputation before the Medical Board.
Board of Medicine Chair Resigned Amid Medicaid Allegations
Allegations of professional misconduct can affect anyone, including the Chair of the Arkansas State Board of Medicine, who resigned in March of 2023. This occurred as a Medicaid audit found “credible allegations of fraud” against the former Chair. Serious allegations, such as Medicare fraud, can happen to anyone. Anyone facing allegations like this needs legal counsel comfortable in a license defense setting that involves allegations of criminal wrongdoing. Do not panic—call the Lento Law Firm quickly, and you will not face these allegations alone.
The Most Common Mistake Physicians Make in Disciplinary Proceedings
While physicians spend years training and preparing to practice medicine, many physicians fail to appreciate the effect that a disciplinary issue can have on their lives and careers.
Many hospitals and clinics have first-rate legal counsel, and doctors rely on these lawyers for allegations of malpractice. But after the end of a civil case or other issue, the issues are not over until they are reported to the board and they make a finding in your favor. It is vital to find an experienced license defense attorney and finish your defense to allegations.
The Lento Law Firm Team
The Lento Law Firm Team is an experienced license defense group dedicated to helping professionals defend their licenses. When you retain the Lento Law Firm, you retain a premier group of talented attorneys, paralegals, investigators, and experts to defend your reputation and livelihood.
Arkansas State Medical Board Disciplinary Charges
The Arkansas State Medical Board licenses physicians in Arkansas and is the body responsible for the discipline of physicians. Disciplinary charges arise in a variety of ways but often come to the board's attention in one of three ways:
- Duty to Report: The Board may become aware of misconduct or malpractice allegations because both the physician and the hospital or other employer have a duty to report. The board may also become aware of malpractice issues through the National Practitioner Database.
- Criminal charges or audits: The Board may become aware that an individual has been charged with a crime or is the focus of an audit, including an audit of Medicaid or Medicare practice and billing.
- Complaint: Any person may make a complaint to the board, provided that the complaint lists an offense of “unprofessional conduct” as enumerated in AR Code § 17-95-409.
Duty to Report Malpractice Allegations
A physician licensed in AR Code § 17-95-103 has a duty to report to the Board of Medicine any malpractice allegations or actions within 10 days of receipt. The physician will generally use the form available on the Board website for this purpose and must provide copies of any action, if available.
Hospitals Also Have Duty to Report Physician Malpractice or Misconduct
A hospital also has a duty to report a physician's misconduct as follows:
- If privileges have been revoked, terminated, or limited in any way.
- If discipline involves a professional ethics violation, drug or alcohol abuse, medical incompetence, or acts of “moral turpitude.”
This report is confidential except for disciplinary boards from other states, licensing application checks from other states, or court orders.
State Board of Medicine Charge Is Not a Criminal Proceeding or Lawsuit
While a notice that the State Board of Medicine has a complaint or action pending against you is a serious matter, it is not a criminal issue. It is also not a lawsuit where a party is seeking damages. Board of Medicine allegations go to the fitness of an individual to practice medicine—they will deal strictly with your license. But these complaints can take away your livelihood or do great damage to the reputation you have worked long and hard to establish. So, they can be very, very costly, and no one should face these charges without experienced counsel.
In Arkansas, the State Board of Medicine Process is governed by AR Code §17-95-410, which provides a framework for all disciplinary matters for physicians.
Initial Investigation and Review
After a complaint, the board must determine if there has been a probable violation of the Arkansas Medical Practices Act or the rules of the board. If the board finds probable cause, it will issue a Complaint and Order.
Settlement Prior to Formal Charge
A physician facing potential charges has every incentive to attempt to settle the issues early in the process with their attorney. This is particularly vital if drug or alcohol violations are at issue—before any type of consent agreement, make sure you have spoken with counsel.
Formal Complaint and Order
If the board finds probable cause for a violation, it will issue a formal complaint and order. This order will set forth specifics of the charge and should be a “full and complete disclosure” of issues before the board. AR Code §14-95-410(C).
The board will request complete files of pertinent documents—this might be malpractice action paperwork or a patient medical record. The board may wish to engage in a formal investigation or take witness statements or depose witnesses.
In the Complaint and Order, the board will give a Notice of Hearing to a physician facing disciplinary charges. The hearing must be at least 30 days from the Complaint and Order. This hearing is an opportunity for Due Process – which is a legal term that simply means that you can tell your side of the story and present evidence to a neutral finder of fact.
In Arkansas, the board is not bound by strict or technical rules of evidence. The board will consider all evidence “fully and fairly.” If the board hears or reads testimony, it must be under oath.
The hearing will proceed under the Administrative Procedures Act, AR Code §25-15-210 (Repl. 1014). Under this law, the board will determine whether the charges are proven or not and must set forth specific Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law that must form a “concise and explicit statements of facts supporting the findings.
Appeal of Board's Decision
The Decision of the Hearing Officer can be appealed to the circuit court in the county at issue and from there to the Arkansas Court of Appeals. Recently, the Court of Appeals took exception to the way in which the AR Medical Board heard and decided a physician discipline case and failed to properly index the record. The court found that “the Board failed to translate the testimony or evidence into findings in fact and that “without findings, we cannot determine the Board's view of the facts or the basis for its conclusion.” The Appeals Court then remanded the board. Duensing v. AR State Medical Board, 2023 Ark. App. 226 (2023).
It is expected that this rebuke from an appellate court may lead the AR State Board of Medicine to use more care in the preparations of decisions on discipline in the future.
What Puts a Medical License at Risk in Arkansas
AR Code §17-95-409 provides definitions of unprofessional conduct by a physician, including:
- Conviction of a felony or any crime involving “moral turpitude.”
- Aiding or abetting an unlicensed person to practice medicine.
- Procuring or aiding or abetting in procuring a wrongful and criminal abortion.
- Violation of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 or the Uniform Controlled Substances Act.
- Alcohol use that will render the physician “incapable of exercising that degree of skill and judgment in the treatment of his or her patients which the moral trust and confidence in him or her demands.”
- Grossly negligent or “ignorant” malpractice.
- Use of narcotics or other habit-forming drugs.
- Physical or mental incompetence to practice medicine to such an extent as to endanger the public.
- False or misleading advertising.
- Willful disclosure of professional, confidential information.
- Persistent and flagrant overcharging or overtreating of patients.
- Violating a rule of the board or a term of probation, or an order previously imposed by the board.
- A violation of a statute or a rule governing the practice of medicine by another state.
- Committing an ethical violation as determined by the board.
Suspension for Default of Student Loans
In Arkansas, the loss of a physician's license for student loan default occurs only under the Rural Healthcare Act. The physician in question must breach the terms of the loan contract, typically by failing to work for the agreed-upon number of years in a rural underserved area in repayment of loans. After a final order from a court or agency, the physician may be suspended from the practice of medicine for the number of years the physician is obligated to practice but has not done so. The board may take exigent circumstances into account upon notification from the Dean of the UAMS. Alternatively, the Medical Board may concur and adopt the findings of the Arkansas Rural Medical Practice Student Loan and Scholarship Board.
Bottom of Form
Charges or Investigation/Audit
The board may also become aware of allegations or charges of criminal wrongdoing. This may happen through the report of abuse allegations, an audit, or through the reporting from state or federal law enforcement or regulatory agencies.
Criminal charges often become Board issues at 3 critical times:
- Initial licensure by the board.
- Report of investigation, charges, or conviction against the currently licensed physician.
- Recertification of a license.
Effect of Criminal Convictions on Licensure
AR Code §17-3-102 sets forth an extensive list of criminal convictions that render an Arkansas resident ineligible for a professional license, including a medical license. These include:
- Murder, including manslaughter
- Sex offenses against a child
- Aggravated Assault
- Endangering a dependent person
- Child pornography possession
- Violations of the Controlled Substance Act
- Criminal contempt or conspiracy
The board, however, may waive any or all these crimes and license a person at its discretion after considering the following:
- The age at the time of the offense.
- The circumstances of the offense.
- The length of time since the crime.
- The work history of the individual since the crime.
- Employment references after the crime.
- Character references after the crime.
- Relevance of offense to license.
- Other evidence that the licensee does not pose a threat to the health and safety of the public.
Medicaid Fraud Under Arkansas State Law
- Make a false statement or representation of a material fact in any claim, request for payment, or application for any benefit or payment under the Arkansas Medicaid Program.
- Omit or conceal a material fact for use in determining rights to a benefit or payment under the Arkansas Medicaid Program.
- Conceal the occurrence of an event affecting the initial or continued right to any benefit or payment under the Arkansas Medicaid Program.
- Convert the benefit of another person to wrongful use.
- Present a claim for care provided by an unlicensed caregiver.
- Solicit or receive any remuneration (such as a kickback, bribe, or rebate) in return for referring an individual for care or purchasing a good or service.
- Offer to pay any remuneration to refer an individual or to induce purchase or order of goods or services.
If you find yourself the target of a Medicaid fraud investigation in Arkansas, make sure and act proactively. If you just want to discuss these issues with experienced counsel, call the Lento Law Firm today.
Denial of License During the Application Process
A background check is required for every Arkansas medical license application. This background check may reveal that the licensee has a criminal background of some type or may have civil actions.
Malpractice or Civil Lawsuits in License Applications
The licensee must provide supplemental answers to any “Yes” answers to background issues in the Application for a Medical License. Each of these answers must be separately signed and dated. Additionally, the licensee must provide a signed and dated explanation of any malpractice claims in the last 10 years and any earlier claims worth more than $500,000. The licensee must provide a copy of any pertinent claim documents.
The Lento Law Firm Team represents individuals with pending license applications in Arkansas who are defending against all types of past behavior.
Physician's Data Center
The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) maintains a database of disciplinary actions and other information. The AR Board of Medicine relies on this Data Center and will likely become aware of any past discipline or other misconduct. It is best to be proactive with good legal counsel if you know of events in your past that will be problematic. Contact legal counsel and get assistance in drafting an explanation and telling your side of the story.
National Practitioner Database
After a settlement or verdict/judgment in a medical malpractice action, a report is made to the National Practitioner Database. The Database will notify the Board of Medicine of the cause of action and the result. In Arkansas, reporting of malpractice actions is required within 10 days of the physician having notice, so a report of a malpractice action would typically be made far before any notice of the National Practitioner Database.
Do Not Wait to Begin Defending Your Medical License
Allegations of illegal, incompetent, or immoral behavior can put a license to practice medicine at risk, whether in an initial application or in continued licensure or recertification. Often, physicians are aware that some challenges they are experiencing will eventually result in a Board investigation. Do not wait to begin defending your license or your ability to be licensed. Remember to keep records and copies of all pertinent information for your counsel and to use care in any interaction with the board or other legal authority or agency. Most importantly, take the issues seriously and find legal counsel who can secure the best outcome for your individual situation.
Areas We Serve in Arkansas
The Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm represents clients throughout Arkansas, including physicians who practice in the following areas:
- Little Rock
- Fort Smith
- Pine Bluff
- Hot Springs
We represent physicians who worked at the Arkansas Children's Hospital, St. Bernards Healthcare, UAMS Medical Center, Washington Regional Medical Center, Baptist Health, CommonSpirit Health, Encompass Health, Arkansas Methodist Medical Center, Arkansas Heart Hospital, Jefferson Regional Medical Center, or any medical facility in Arkansas. The Lento Law Firm Team can represent your interests in multiple state licenses if necessary.
License Defense Team for Arkansas Physicians
No matter your area of practice, the Lento Law Firm Team is the premier license defense choice for physicians in Arkansas. Hundreds of professionals have trusted the Lento Law Firm to fight for the best outcome for their disciplinary charges. The Arkansas State Board of Medicine has vast resources and investigatory powers, and it is exceedingly difficult to go against them without tough, experienced counsel. The Lento Law Firm Professional License Defense Team will fight for the best possible outcome for your case. The Lento Law Firm Team can evaluate your case and provide the guidance you need to put this challenging time behind you. Call 888.535.3686 or contact us online now.