Physicians spend years in school, training, internships, and residency, sometimes spending decades becoming experts in specific areas of medicine. They spend thousands of hours training and helping people, often also dedicating hundreds of hours of volunteer work in the community. We revere physicians in our communities because they help people in their most vulnerable moments, from birth to death. As a result of their trusted position in society, we also hold doctors to the highest ethical and professional standards to ensure that they don't abuse the trust of their patients.
Each state has a medical licensing board that oversees its physicians' licensing, training, education, and professionalism. If someone makes a complaint against you, alleging that you've violated your ethical and professional duties, or you're facing criminal charges or a conviction, your state medical board will likely begin an investigation and may initiate disciplinary action against you. If so, you need attorney Joseph D. Lento and his experienced Professional Licensing Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm to protect your rights during the process. They can help physicians with licensing issues from coast to coast.
Triggers for Board Investigations
Some of the most common issues that can lead to a board investigation or disciplinary action against you as a physician include:
- Patient abuse or neglect, including physical, verbal, or sexual abuse, or gross neglect or malpractice, particularly if it leads to long-term injury or illness,
- Inappropriate prescribing practices, including over-prescribing controlled substances, administering medications outside the scope of your license, or negligently prescribing,
- Fraud or theft, including insurance fraud, Medicare or Medicaid fraud, over-billing, upcoding, falsifying patient diagnoses for higher insurance recovery, billing for services not performed, and accepting money for referrals,
- Inadequate record-keeping, including altering medical records or failing to keep appropriate records,
- Criminal convictions, including felony convictions, and
- Failing to report an arrest, particularly those for drug or alcohol offenses.
While allegations of medical malpractice can be serious, they are typically handled in civil court, not by a licensing board. However, depending on the outcome and evidence brought forth in a civil trial for malpractice, the medical board could take up the matter for investigation, particularly if the plaintiff can prove some intentional harm or abuse by a physician.
Board Investigation and Disciplinary Process
The investigation and disciplinary process may differ from state to state but typically includes a complaint, investigation, possible hearing, and disciplinary action.
- Complaint: First, someone will typically make an allegation against you to your medical licensing board that you've violated your ethical or professional duties. The complaint may come from a patient, colleague, co-worker, hospital, clinic, or employer.
- Investigation: Next, the board will evaluate and investigate the complaint to determine if it has any merit on its face. The board may ask you for more information in writing and may subpoena records. The board can also determine that the complaint is without merit and drop the investigation.
- Inquiry: Depending on your written responses, the board may order you to appear at an in-person inquiry to question you further about the allegations and the circumstances and records surrounding them.
- Consent Order: If the board believes disciplinary action is needed, they will often attempt to negotiate a punishment with you and your attorney. This might be the best way to resolve a complaint if you were at fault.
- Hearing: If you can't agree to a consent order, the board will often file a formal complaint against you in your state. You will then have a formal hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ), who will hear from witnesses and review evidence before deciding whether to issue a punishment against you.
- Appeal: You can appeal an adverse decision in court within a specified period. However, the court will only review the ALJ's decision for errors of fact or law; they will not rehear the entire case.
Potential Penalties from Board Discipline
The consequences of an adverse finding from a medical board can be serious and potentially end your career as a physician. The most serious consequences can be the loss of your medical license and your career as a physician. Other potential consequences include:
- License suspension for a specific period, or subject to review by the board before reinstatement,
- Probation and monitoring to ensure you meet the qualifications to keep your license in place or to monitor your behavior or professionalism,
- Restricting your license for certain functions or tasks, such as limiting your ability to perform surgery or prescribe medication or limit you to working in a specific location or clinic,
- Imposing conditions for you to perform to keep your license, such as counseling, drug treatment, or alcohol treatment,
- Imposing continuing medical education requirements to close gaps in your knowledge or skills, and
- Issuing public or private reprimands for less serious infractions.
Why Do I Need Attorney Joseph D. Lento?
Often, physicians feel that they can easily clear up a misunderstanding that's led to a complaint and inquiry from the medical board. While this may be true in some cases, the consequences can be serious, leading to losing your license and career. From the beginning of an investigation through an inquiry and hearing, you need a skilled lawyer to protect your rights and present your best case. Once you present your case to an ALJ in a formal hearing, it may be too late to correct mistakes. This is why it's essential that you retain attorney Joseph D. Lento and his seasoned Professional Licensing Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm. The team is well-versed in handling licensing defense matters across the country.
How We Can Help You
The stakes are high if you're facing an inquiry, investigation, or disciplinary action from your state medical board. You could lose your license, face suspension, end up with conditions on your license to practice, or receive a public reprimand. These actions can harm your reputation and, in some cases, end your career as a physician. But this isn't something you must fight on your own. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the skilled Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm can help. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686, or contact them online to schedule your consultation. They can help nationwide.