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What physicians should know about allegations of misconduct

Those people who make the decision to become a physician know from the outset that it won't be an easy endeavor, as the process requires a substantial investment of time, money and energy. Nevertheless, all this hard work ultimately pays off once they have their medical license, as they are free to start caring for patients, building a practice and, of course, providing for their family in earnest.

What happens, however, if a physician is notified by state officials that they are under investigation for misconduct? Suddenly, everything they've worked so hard to accomplish both professionally and personally is in real jeopardy, with their fate left to a process that likely seems both arcane and arbitrary.

In recognition of how frightening and frustrating this can be, today's post will spend some time exploring how written complaints against physicians are handled by the New York State Health Department's Office of Professional Medical Conduct and the Board of Professional Medical Conduct.

All written complaints submitted against licensed medical providers are first reviewed by the OPMC to determine whether they are lacking the necessary foundation or simply outside of its jurisdiction.

If neither of these concerns are implicated and the written complaint is found to raise legitimate concerns of potential misconduct by a licensed physician, OPMC investigators will start reviewing records and conducting the necessary interviews.

Indeed, physicians should be aware that 1) any failure to cooperate during the investigative process can constitute misconduct on its own and 2) that they can have legal representation present at any point during the initial investigation.

In the event these investigatory efforts uncover evidence supporting a potential finding of misconduct, the matter will be referred to an investigation committee with the Board of Professional Medical Conduct.

After reviewing the evidence, the investigation committee-- comprised of two physicians and layperson -- can recommend any of the following: additional investigation, dismissal, non-disciplinary consultations/warnings, or a hearing. However, it can also determine that the physician in question poses an imminent risk to the health and safety of the public, and recommend immediate license suspension by the state health commissioner.   

We'll continue this discussion in our next post.

If you are a physician who has been notified that you are under investigation for potential misconduct, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible as the stakes are simply too high.

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