You've spent thousands of hours to become an optometrist. After at least eight years of school, national board exams, a residency, and obtaining your license, you've invested a lot of time and money in your career. Since becoming an optometrist, you've also spent a great deal of time developing a professional reputation with your colleagues, patients, and community. So, if you receive notice that someone has complained to your state board of optometry about you, it can be a crisis.
Each state has its own Board of Optometry overseeing all optometrists' education, training, licensing, and professional standards. As part of these responsibilities, your state board also develops regulations and rules regarding professional standards and ethics that you must meet to remain practicing. When someone complains to the board about a licensed optometrist's professionalism, abilities, or ethics, the board has a duty to investigate. While you must cooperate in an investigation, you also have a right to have an experienced attorney protecting your rights through the process. The stakes are too high to treat a board investigation or disciplinary process nonchalantly. That's why you need attorney Joseph D. Lento and the skilled Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm. They can help in all 50 states.
Common Triggers for Optometry Board Investigations
A complaint to the optometry board can come from almost anyone you work with professionally, including patients, coworkers, employees, colleagues, a clinic, or a hospital. Triggers for an investigation from your state board of optometry can include:
- Fraud, including insurance fraud, Medicaid or Medicare fraud, overbilling, upcoding, and billing for procedures and exams you haven't performed,
- Patient abuse, such as physical, verbal, or sexual harassment,
- Sexual abuse or harassment involving patients, staff, or colleagues,
- Gross negligence, particularly if it causes permanent harm to a patient,
- Alcohol or substance abuse,
- Criminal charges or convictions, as well as failing to report an arrest or conviction, and
- Acting outside the scope of your license.
Optometry Board Investigations and the Disciplinary Process
While every state has its own specific investigatory and disciplinary procedures, most will follow the same basic process involving a complaint, investigation, consent decree, formal complaint and hearing, and an appeal. Attorney Lento and his Professional Licensing Team at the Lento Law Firm can help no matter where you live. However, your optometry board won't use the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard to determine if the allegations against you are true. Rather, they'll use the lower “clear and convincing evidence” standard, meaning they believe it's highly likely the allegations are true.
- Complaint: The investigation will begin with a complaint to your state optometry board alleging that you have engaged in misconduct, malpractice, or violated professional standards. The board will first examine the complaint to see if the conduct, as alleged, violates a professional standard.
- Investigation: The board will then investigate the allegation, notifying you of the complaint in writing and asking for a response or answers to written interrogatories. They may also ask for documents related to the complaint. If the board believes the complaint has no merit, they can dismiss it at any time.
- Consent Decree: If the board believes that your actions merit sanctions, they may first try to negotiate a consent decree with you and your attorney. You and your attorney can discuss whether this is the best way to resolve your case quickly.
- Formal Complaint and Hearing: If you can't agree to a consent decree, the board may make a formal complaint with the state and then proceed to a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The ALJ will hold a formal hearing with witnesses and evidence. If the ALJ finds against you, they will also order sanctions.
- Appeal: If the ALJ makes an adverse finding against you, you'll have a short period to appeal to a court. However, the court will not rehear your case in its entirety. Instead, the court will review the ALJ's decision for mistakes of fact and law.
Common Penalties from Optometry Board Disciplinary Action
In determining sanctions, the optometry board and the ALJ will have a wide range to choose from, with the most serious penalty being the revocation of your license to practice. This will end your career in optometry. Other possible sanctions include:
- A license suspension,
- Requiring that you attend additional optometry education classes,
- Requiring that you attend counseling, human resource classes, professional conduct or ethics classes, substance abuse or alcohol treatment,
- Limiting your practice to certain procedures,
- Requiring supervision of your practice for a probationary period,
- Fines or restitution,
- Public reprimands, or
- Private reprimands.
Why You Need the Lento Law Firm for an Optometry Board Investigation
When you first hear about a professional complaint against you, you may be tempted to try and clear up the misunderstanding yourself. It's natural to think that if you tell your story, the optometry board will understand and dismiss the complaint. Unfortunately, anything you say to the board, formally or informally, can be used against you in the disciplinary process. You may unintentionally make your case more challenging. While you have a duty to cooperate during an investigation, you can also refer the optometry board to your lawyer and ask that all communication, answers to interrogatories, and document requests go through them.
Moreover, a hearing before an Administrative Law Judge is a formal court proceeding. It can be challenging to present your best case and comply with the rules of the court and the rules of evidence without in-depth knowledge and experience with administrative procedure, professional licensing law, and litigation. Using attorney Joseph D. Lento and the Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm can ensure you have someone to protect your rights and career.
How We Can Help You
If you're facing an investigation or disciplinary proceedings from your state optometry board, the Lento Law Firm can help. Attorney Joseph D. Lento and the skilled Professional License Defense Team at the Lento Law Firm have been defending licensed professionals nationwide for years. Call them today at 888-535-3686, or contact them online to schedule your consultation.