You are a physician who has just received a letter from the Office of Professional Medical Conduct (“OPMC”) requesting copies of charts in connection with an OPMC investigation into your professional conduct. What do you do?
A natural reaction--to immediately provide all the charts and hope for the best--may not be the best course of action. OPMC matters can range from being extremely serious (leading to license suspension or revocation) to easily resolvable with no consequences whatsoever. You may know specifically why OPMC is investigating you, have a vague idea, or no idea at all. You may be a veteran of OMPC battles, or may just be coming into contact with OPMC for the first time. Regardless of the potential seriousness of the matter, you should always seek advice of an experienced OPMC attorney.
OMPC is mandated to investigate all complaints against physicians. Complaints can originate from many sources--disgruntled patients, fired employees, HMOs, court records, criminal investigatory agencies, and the like. Some complaints are obviously meritless. However, if a physician receives a letter from OPMC, this means that an OPMC investigator has reviewed the complaint, determined that it is not patently meritless, and recommended further investigation. Without proper handling, even if no suspension or revocation of the license eventually occurs, an adverse OMPC disposition can still be extremely prejudicial to your career and business. First, the information concerning the matter gets posted on OPMC’s website and is accessible to the general public. New York Department of Health Physician Profiles, which are frequently checked by patients, also link to the information from the OPMC database. Managed care companies may terminate your contracts or drop you from panels if you have a pending or concluded OPMC matter. Finally, a finding of professional misconduct arising out of an incident of malpractice can harm your prospects of succeeding in a malpractice civil lawsuit. Finally, your liability insurer may not renew your policy or your premiums may rise considerably. In short, negative consequences from even a simple matter can cascade and overwhelm you.
There are multiple procedural points familiar to an OPMC attorney that can help you to minimize the fallout from an OPMC proceeding and succeed in preserving your license. The initial request for information is frequently too vague to be properly addressed. An experienced OMPC attorney will be able to obtain as much information concerning the investigation as possible at the initial stage. An in-depth review of the file with counsel is critical to the success of your OMPC matter. Furthermore, the attorney will advise you on the proper handling of the charts and information relevant to the investigation.
The next step in proper handling of an OPMC investigation is preparation for an interview. If handled properly, an interview can be extremely beneficial to the outcome of your case, and may result in a closure of the investigation. However, in some circumstances, an interview is not advisable. An experienced attorney will help you determine whether the initial voluntary interview is in your best interests and chart the further course of action accordingly. Needless to say, having an experienced attorney accompany you to the interview can be very reassuring.
After the interview, proper follow-up is critically important. It can determine if the OMPC investigation will be closed, or whether charges (and what kind) will be filed. Once the charges are filed, they are immediately available to the general public via the OPMC website. Obviously, no physician should handle the hearing before the hearing committee on their own. An attorney can negotiate a settlement of the matter so as to minimize the impairment of the physician's license. Finally, an attorney can appeal the finding of misconduct to the Administrative Review Board and file judicial review proceedings following an adverse OPMC determination.
We routinely handle OPMC matters for our clients and are well-versed in the intricacies of the process. We will help you to minimize the impact on your license, business, financial and moral well-being. If you are facing an OPMC investigation, you should contact a knowledgeable, aggressive and attentive counsel as soon as possible.