We represent physicians and physician assistants in New York that are before the Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC), including those involved in misconduct investigations and prosecutions. Professional misconduct covers a wide range of offenses that are outlined in Education Law for the state of New York.
There are approximately forty different kinds of conduct that might be classified as unprofessional and worthy of discipline. Common areas of misconduct faced by physicians in New York include HIPAA violations, being convicted of any crime, incompetence or negligence, poor record keeping, disciplinary action in a different state, practicing under the influence of alcohol or drugs, breach of patient boundaries, being morally or mentally unfit, billing fraud, insurance fraud, false statements during license renewal, failing to supervise staff, practicing beyond the professional scope, and allowing unlicensed personnel to perform duties requiring a license.
What’s Involved in an OPMC Investigation?
An OPMC investigation is quite involved and it’s imperative that you understand how to respond if you become the target of one. The OPMC begins the process of investigating an allegation of misconduct agains a New York physician as soon as it’s received. The case will be sent to the regional office based on the location of the physician’s office. There are regional OPMC offices in upstate New York and New York City. As a physician, you will be notified by the OPMC either by telephone or by mail when an investigation has been opened.
Once an investigation of professional misconduct has been launched, the OPMC will ask for an interview with the physician. They will also ask for documentation, such as patient records. Physicians are required to comply with requests from the OPMC for documentation. However, it’s important to understand that you are not required to comply with a request for an interview. It is in your interest to seek legal counsel before having a conversation with an investigator from the OPMC.
Many physicians choose to speak with an OPMC investigator because they believe they haven’t done anything wrong and have nothing to hide. As a physician, OPMC interviews can be problematic because anything you say while speaking with an investigator can and likely will be used against you. It’s also important to note that the scope of an OPMC investigation is usually much wider than most physicians could ever anticipate. Although many physicians want to be helpful, they often end up making statements that result in additional charges. By meeting with counsel before an investigation, you can get a better understanding of the process and how you should respond to protect your interests. If an interview does occur, the OPMC may present you with a Report of Interview. They will also determine whether there is a sufficient amount of evidence to move forward with a case of professional misconduct.
In the event that there is a sufficient amount of evidence, members of the Investigation Committee will review the case. This committee is typically comprised of a layperson and two doctors. The committee will review the case and make a recommendation regarding a disciplinary hearing. If the decision is made to advance the case, formal disciplinary charges will follow, which may or may not be made public. This will depend on the seriousness of the case. If it’s considered a public health risk, the physician’s license may be summarily suspended prior to the hearing.
The hearing committee will determine if there is misconduct and they will also determine the penalties. Penalties in New York medical disciplinary cases will vary and may include monetary fines, reprimand, suspension, probation, license annulment, license revocation, retraining, license limitation or community service.
Can You Appeal a Hearing Committee’s Decision?
It’s possible to appeal the hearing committee’s decision in New York. An appeal can be filed with the Administrative Review Board (ARB). Under CPLR Article 78, there is also an appellate process that allows you to challenge the decision of the hearing committee.
If you are a physician in New York that’s being investigated by the OPMC, we are available to help you navigate through is process. Call us today for a consultation.