The New York State enforcement agency whose purview is the regulation and discipline of licensed physicians practicing in New York is the Office of Professional Medical Conduct. The OPMC is empowered to investigate and penalize doctors who are discovered to be guilty of professional misconduct. Our health care specialists at Joseph Potashnik and Associates, PC, boast much experience representing numerous New York physicians when they were up against OPMC inquiries and discipline with a long list of favorable results for our clients.
How Concerned Should I Be About An OMPC Investigation?
In many cases, physicians are unaware that the OPMC even exists, then suddenly they are hit with allegations detailed in a letter from one of their investigators. Largely, medical school graduates come out of school not ever having been obligated to learn much on the topic of professional discipline. Any physician who learns that they are the subject of an OPMC investigation should be clear on the fact that it is possible for them to be inflicted with repercussions as severe as getting their license to practice taken away having their practice severely restricted. From your perspective you may be innocent, but regardless of that perception, anytime the OPMC makes contact with you and commences an investigation into a complaint against you, this should be considered a grave matter off the bat. Your first act should be to call a well informed health care defense attorney right away. Your livelihood and career could be in serious jeopardy, and you it is not in your best interest to downplay the weight of the circumstances.
What is the Definition of Professional Misconduct by New York Law?
Defining professional misconduct requires one to consider a rather long list of frowned upon practices that spans different levels of seriousness. These include negligent practice of medicine, practicing areas of medicine one is not qualified or authorized to practice, and practicing medicine under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Any of these can get a physician charged with professional misconduct. Add to this list fraud and falsification connected to your medical license or authorization to practice, false advertising,unscrupulous financial transactions, including unwarranted fee-splitting and referral arrangements. These finance-based practices are yet an additional segment of activities classed as misconduct. Furthermore, breaking of any of the diverse laws and rules governing public health, proper disclosures, physician advertising, or medical records are all classed as professional misconduct. Often, physicians who have been convicted of a crime also face the possibility of professional discipline. Members of our New York office OPMC legal team can handle all such matters.
Here’s What to Expect in an OPMC Investigation
Commonly, an OPMC investigation is set off by a complaint that is filed accusing a physician of some form of misconduct. Accusations of fraudulent financial practices, abuse of controlled substances, or immoral behavior of a sexual nature are considered more weighty than other offenses. As part of an investigation, the OPMC can subpoena records, contact potential witnesses for interviews, and request that the physician herself attend an interview.
Deciding whether should speak with an investigator is a pivotal choice when you consider that any information you furnish in the interview could potentially be used to prove wrongdoing. Indeed any physician who finds himself in these circumstances would do well to get in touch with a skilled license defense lawyer with haste once they have been notified of a looming investigation. A well prepared defense counsel can apprise you of your rights and obligations in furnishing information, and analyze the details of your situation to assist you in plotting your next steps. Be careful not to send any kind of reply or any documents ahead of discussing things with your lawyer; not only could you potentially hurt your case, but also just furnishing specific types of records could be on it’s own a violation. Make it your business not to speak with the OPMC investigator without your attorney at the table.
If you get a notice from the OPMC, and in it they summon you to an interview, you can bet this is not as simple as it sounds. Your right to legal representation applies here, and you also have the right to have a stenographer present. Investigators can use anything you say against you during the course of the current investigation and even in ensuing investigations and criminal prosecutions. They can bring more charges against you as a result of a misinterpreted statement they got out of you at the interview. In truth, you are not mandated to submit to the interview at all. Allow your attorney to review all the details to help you figure out if an interview will do you justice or not. It is never a good idea to attend an interview without legal representation.
When all is said and done, the OPMC investigative committee might just close the matter, pursue a deeper investigation, slap you with an administrative warning, send you in for a compulsory physical or psychiatric evaluation, or recommend the filing of a formal action. An administrative warning is confidential and cannot be used as evidence that a physician was deemed guilty of the alleged misconduct. That said, if another complaint arrives involving the same category of misconduct again, the first case could get reopened. The so-called formal action could include getting your medical license suspended, having to temporarily surrender it, or filing of additional formal misconduct charges.
If it so happens that they file formal charges against you, the hearing has to take place within 60 days before a panel. In preparation for the hearing, both sides can procure discovery from each other, and this can include names of witnesses, copies of documentary evidence, and lists and descriptions of any physical evidence. At any moment ahead of the hearing, the parties can also choose to negotiate a settlement. Before you agree to any offer from the OPMC, consult your attorney. Specific terms that come across as innocuous could carry heavy consequences. You have a right to appeal once the panel makes a determination against you to the Administrative Review Board (ARB) or the Appellate Division; the Appellate Division will additionally hear any appeals from the ARB’s decision.
Repercussions for physicians who are decided to be sufficiently proven guilty of the charges against them are numerous. You can suffer revocation of license, partial, conditional or unconditional suspension of license, annulment of license, hefty fines, and compulsory additional training.
Anyone who finds him or herself suddenly battling allegations of professional misconduct should get experienced health care attorney on their team right away once they receive have been notified. Furnishing files or verbal replies to investigators without talking to a lawyer first can cripple your case and even potentially put your medical license in jeopardy. Our team of medical license defense lawyers stand by physician clients at every stage of the process. Our familiarity with the relevant laws and procedures in New York State strengthens our prowess to knowledgeably review the details of your unique case and plot the most effective strategy to defend you well.
We have a great team of OPMC lawyers who have been standing with New York physicians in a multitude of licensing matters including license defense and reinstatement, hospital privileges, professional Boards matters, and more. Do give us a call at our office today to make an appointment with an attorney to discuss your situation.