Ohio Medical Board Proposes Confidential Monitoring Program for Licensees With Mental or Physical Illness Other Than a Substance Use Disorder

The State Medical Board of Ohio (“Board”) has proposed rules for a new confidential monitoring program, which, if approved, is anticipated to be implemented later this year and the rules for which would be contained in OAC 4731-28, Mental or Physical Impairment.

The proposed program would be non-disciplinary and voluntary. The licensee’s participation in the proposed program would be governed by a written contract (called a participation agreement) between the licensee and the Board. The Board’s intent of the proposed program is to enable licensees, who would otherwise be subject to formal discipline, to avoid formal discipline for issues related to mental or physical illness.

Eligibility criteria for the proposed program includes, but is not limited to:

1) The Board may conduct any investigation necessary to evaluate the totality of circumstances, including requiring a physical or mental examination;

2) The individual must provide continuing authorization for the disclosure and release of information between the Board, the individual, and any other persons or entities involved in the evaluation, treatment or monitoring of the individual;

3) The individual must be willing to begin treatment or demonstrate that they have been significantly compliant with their established treatment plan;

4) Any individual that has been issued a Notice of Opportunity for Hearing that is pending is not eligible; and

5) There is no information indicating that allowing the individual to participate in the proposed program will create a substantial risk of potential harm to patients.

As proposed, OAC 4731-28-04 authorizes the Board to disqualify a participant from the proposed program for any alleged violation of their participation agreement, as determined by the sole discretion of the Secretary and Supervising Member, and shall constitute grounds for the Board to take a public disciplinary action against the licensee.
Finally, as proposed, OAC 4731-28-05 outlines the conditions that the participant must complete to have the participation agreement terminated.

The full draft of the proposed rules may be found at the Board’s website at: http://med.ohio.gov/Laws-Rules/Newly-Adopted-and-Proposed-Rules/Confidential-Monitoring-Program.

As always, if you have any questions about this blog or the State Medical Board of Ohio, please feel free to contact one of the attorneys at Collis Law Group LLC at (614) 486-3909 or email me at Beth@collislaw.com.

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Failing to request a hearing can be a very costly mistake.

Today, I attended the monthly meeting of the State Medical Board of Ohio.  I was surprised to see that in all six cases handled by the Board, the licensees had failed to request a hearing.  Despite the fact that the Board may impose any sanction, ranging from dismissal to permanent revocation of a license, in each case where the licensee failed to request a hearing, the Board either revoked or permanently revoked their licenses.

The Board Members expressed concern that if these licensees had not requested a hearing or attended the Board meeting, these licensees were not interested in maintaining an Ohio license.  Therefore, the Board revoked their licenses.  By failing to request a hearing, the Board is often left with unanswered questions.

Often, professionals will tell me that do not want to request a hearing or appear before the Board because they have already submitted documentation in support of their case and they believe they have, “no other information to provide to the Board”.

Failing to request a hearing can be a very costly mistake.  There is no more powerful information than the personal testimony of a license holder.  Boards typically like to see that an individual understands the gravity of charges against them, that the individual accepts responsibility for their conduct, that the individual expresses remorse for their conducts, and how the individual will handle a similar situation in the future.

Often, I find that cases appear to be far more serious on paper and that once testimony is provided from the licensee and by those who support the licensee, the Board is able to have their questions answered and view the case in a much less serious light.  In some instances, I have also seen that the sanction the Board imposes after a hearing is less harsh than the Board was contemplating prior to the hearing.

Failing to request a hearing can be a very costly mistake.  It is recommended that a licensee request a hearing and to present testimony in your defense.  If you want to retain your medical license, you need to fight for it.

As always, if you have any questions about this post or about the State Medical Board of Ohio in general, please feel free to contact me at beth@collislaw.com or at 614-486-3909.

The Hippocratic Oath: A Blueprint For Certain Legal Requirements Applicable to Ohio Physicians

The Hippocratic Oath (“Oath”) is arguably the most widely known ancient Greek medical text.  The Oath governs ancient Greek physicians’ professional and ethical behavior.  Although written approximately 2,500 years ago, certain standards in the Oath are reflected in current legal requirements concerning Ohio physicians’ medical practice and behavior.

This is a literal translation of the original version of the Oath:

I swear by Apollo Physician and Asclepius and Health and Panacea and all the gods and goddesses, making them witnesses, that I will make complete this oath and this written covenant according to my ability and discernment: 

To regard my teacher of this art as equal to my parents and to share my livelihood (with him), and to make a contribution to him when he is in need of a debt, and to judge his offspring as equal to my brothers in manhood, and to teach this art – if they want to learn it – without wage and written covenant (to them), to make an imparting of the set of rules and lecture and all the rest of instruction to my sons and those of my teacher, and to those pupils who have been indentured and who have taken an oath according to the medical law, but to no one else. 

-I will use diets for the assistance of the sick according to my ability and discernment; but also to keep away injury of health and injustice. 

I will neither give any deadly drug, having been asked for it, nor will I guide the same advice. Similarly, I will not give an abortifacient pessary to a woman. In purity and in holiness I will maintain my life and my art. 

-I will not use the knife, not even on those suffering from the stone, but I will give way to those who are practitioners of this work.

And as many houses as I may go into, I will go in for the assistance of the sick, being free from all voluntary injustice and mischief and the rest, even abstaining from sexual pleasures of both female and male persons, both free and slaves. 

-That which I may see or hear during treatment, or even outside of treatment concerning the life of men, which must not in any way be divulged outside, I will not speak, regarding such things to be unutterable. 

And so may it be to me making complete my oath and not making it of no effect that I enjoy the benefits of my life and art and be honored by all men for time eternal; but may it be the opposite of this to me transgressing and swearing falsely. 

The Oath taken today has been revised from the above original text.  Although there are portions of the original Oath which are no longer applicable or sworn to by physicians, there are interesting parallels between certain standards in the original Oath and the present-day laws in the Ohio Revised Code (“ORC”), pertaining to Ohio physicians’ medical practice and behavior, the violation of which subjects a physician to disciplinary action by the State Medical Board of Ohio (“Ohio Medical Board”).

No Harm To Patients

The Oath provides: “I will use diets for the assistance of the sick according to my ability and discernment; but also to keep away injury of health and injustice.”  I interpret this provision generally to require the ancient Greek physician (i) to use dietary regimens to assist people who are sick, (ii) not to harm their patients, and (iii) not to do any injustice to their patients.

ORC §4731.22 authorizes the Ohio Medical Board to discipline a physician based acts would could result in patient harm including but not limited to:

ORC §4731.22(B)(2): Failure to maintain minimal standards applicable to the selection or administration of drugs, or failure to employ acceptable scientific methods in the selection of drugs or other modalities for treatment of disease;

ORC §4731.22(B)(3): Selling, giving away, personally furnishing, prescribing, or administering drugs for other than legal and legitimate therapeutic purposes;

ORC §4731.22(B)(6): A departure from, or the failure to conform to, minimal standards of care of similar practitioners under the same or similar circumstances (whether or not actual injury to a patient is established); and

ORC §4731.22(B)(18): Violation of any provision of a code of ethics of the American medical association; and/or

ORC §4731.22(B)(29): Failure to use universal blood and body fluid precautions established by Ohio Medical Board rule.

No Injustice To Patients

ORC §4731.22 also authorizes the Ohio Medical Board to discipline a physician based on an act which evidences an injustice to a patient including but not limited to:

ORC §4731.22(B)(1): Permitting one’s name or one’s certificate to practice or certificate of registration to be used by a person, group, or corporation when the individual concerned is not actually directing the treatment given;

ORC §4731.22(B)(5): Making a false, fraudulent, deceptive, or misleading statement in the solicitation of or advertising for patients; in relation to the practice of medicine and surgery;

ORC §4731.22(B)(7): Representing, with the purpose of obtaining compensation or other advantage as personal gain or for any other person, that an incurable disease or injury, or other incurable condition, can be permanently cured; and/or

ORC §4731.22(B)(8): The obtaining of, or attempting to obtain, money or anything of value by fraudulent misrepresentations in the course of practice.

Although the requirement of the Oath to, “keep away injury of health and injustice” is phrased more broadly than the specific requirements in the ORC, a parallel between the requirements of the Oath and the ORC is apparent.  The dictates imposed by both the ancient Greek caregivers and the Ohio legislature evidence important standards that a physician do no harm to the patient and promote the just (ie, honest and truthful) relationship between the physician and the patient.

Sanctity Of Life 

The Oath provides: “I will neither give any deadly drug, having been asked for it, nor will I guide the same advice. Similarly, I will not give an abortifacient pessary to a woman. In purity and in holiness I will maintain my life and my art.”  The requirements (i) not to give or recommend any deadly drug, (ii) not to induce an abortion, and (iii) for the physician to hold his or her own life in purity and holiness, individually and collectively, support the notion that ancient Greek physicians held human life as sacred.

ORC §4731.22(B)(3) authorizes the Ohio Medical Board to discipline a physician for selling, giving away, personally furnishing, prescribing, or administering drugs for other than legal and legitimate therapeutic purposes.  Additionally, assisted suicide is against public policy in Ohio (ORC §3795.02(A) and is required to be enjoined by a Court of Common Pleas (ORC §3795.02(B)).  Consequently, ORC §4731.22(B)(37) authorizes the Ohio Medical Board to discipline a physician for assisting suicide.

Subject to certain express conditions and exceptions in Ohio law beyond the scope of this article, ORC §4731.22(B)(23) authorizes the Ohio Medical Board to discipline a physician for performing or inducing an abortion upon a pregnant woman.

No Sexual Misconduct

The Oath provides: “And as many houses as I may go into, I will go in for the assistance of the sick, being free from all voluntary injustice and mischief and the rest, even abstaining from sexual pleasures of both female and male persons, both free and slaves.

OAC §4731-26-02(A) authorizes the Ohio Medical Board to discipline a physician for engaging in sexual misconduct with a patient.

Confidentiality 

The Oath provides: “That which I may see or hear during treatment, or even outside of treatment concerning the life of men, which must not in any way be divulged outside, I will not speak, regarding such things to be unutterable.”

ORC §4731.22(B)(4) authorizes the Ohio Medical Board to discipline a physician for willfully betraying a professional confidence.

Conclusion 

The standards in the Oath applicable to ancient Greek physicians to do no patient harm, to have a just patient relationship, to take no act contrary to human life, to abstain from sexual misconduct with a patient, and to protect patient confidential information, are reflected in present-day legal requirements applicable to Ohio physicians’ medical practice and behavior.

That the Oath is recited in medical schools even today (See: http://medicine.osu.edu/news/archive/2012/08/21/reciting-the-hippocratic-oath-a-family-centered-tradition.aspx) is a testament to the enduring verities contained in the Oath.

As always, if you have any questions about this post or the Ohio Medical Board in general, please contact Collis, Smiles & Collis, LLC or Beth Collis at 614-486-3909 or Beth@collislaw.com.

Ohio Medical Board approach to physicians with mental health issues may have a chilling effect on physicians seeking treatment

Pursuant to Ohio Revised Code Section 4731.22(B)(19), the Medical Board in Ohio can suspend the license of a physician if it is determined that a physician has an “…inability to practice according to acceptable and prevailing standard of care by reason of mental illness . . .”.  This suggests that the Board must link a physician’s mental illness to an inability to safely practice medicine.  In fact, the Medical Board does not need to show immediate harm to the public or evidence of poor or substandard medical practice to limit or restrict a physician’s license if it is determined that he or she suffers from a mental illness.

Under the Ohio Medical Board statute, if the Board has reason to believe that a physician suffers from a mental illness that could affect their ability to practice medicine, the Board can order the physician to undergo a psychiatric evaluation with a Board approved psychiatrist (a psychiatrist selected and approved by the Medical Board). The evaluation, which generally runs between $2,500-$4,800, is at the expense of the physician. Generally, before the evaluation, the physician is required to sign a release form and submit his or her medical records, including mental health records, to the Board approved psychiatrist for review. After reviewing the physician’s medical records, the Board approved psychiatrist will evaluate the physician and make a determination. The evaluation may or may not include psychological testing and may or may not include the psychiatrist contacting family members, colleagues or co-workers to evaluate the physician’s “ability to practice.”

After the evaluation, the Board approved psychiatrist will make one of the following recommendations to the Board:

-physician may continue to practice medicine with no Board monitoring; or

-physician may continue to practice medicine as long as they enter into a monitoring agreement that requires them to maintain treatment with a psychiatrist or therapist and for the therapist to submit quarterly reports to the Board; or

-the physician is unfit to practice medicine and his or her license will be suspended until such time as s/he can provide the Medical Board with evaluations from two additional psychiatrists that s/he is fit to resume practice. These evaluations are, again, at the expense of the physician.

If the physician is required to enter into any type of monitoring agreement with the Medical Board, the agreement is a public document.  Such agreement typically includes the physican’s medical diagnosis and conditions under which he or she may continue to practice medicine. It is reported to the National Practitioner’s Data Bank and is accessible to the public on the Medical Board website.

Many physicians throughout the state have voiced strong opposition to the lack of confidentiality of the monitoring program, the onerous nature of the monitoring conditions and the chilling effect that curtails many from seeking appropriate medical care for fear that their confidential medical records would be reviewed by Medical Board Members or staff. (Confidential medical records are NOT released to the public. However, the physician’s medical diagnosis, monitoring conditions and name of their treating doctor is released to the public.)

Many individuals have been contacting the Medical Board with their concerns about the punitive way in which the Medical Board treats physicians who suffer from a mental health condition. Many individuals are also pushing for Ohio to institute a confidential program to monitor physicians. If you believe that physicians should be provided with a confidential monitoring program, I recommend that you contact the State Medical Board of Ohio and voice your concerns.

As always, if you have any questions about this post or the State Medical Board of Ohio in general, please contact one of the attorneys at Collis, Smiles & Collis, LLC at 614-486-3909, or by email to Beth@collislaw.com.

 

How are decisions made by the State Medical Board of Ohio

I am often asked by clients, “Who makes the final determination as to the sanction that will be imposed against a physician at the State Medical Board of Ohio?”  In theory, this is a simple answer. The Board Members review all the evidence in the case and a vote of six members will result in a sanction against a physician. Alternatively, if the case does not proceed to a hearing, two members of the Board, the Board Secretary and Supervising Member review the evidence and offer terms for a settlement in lieu of proceeding to a hearing.

To make the appropriate determination as to the sanction that should be imposed, the Medical Board has Disciplinary Guidelines, which are posted on the Board’s website (http://www.med.ohio.gov/pdf/meddis.pdf) that outline appropriate sanctions for various violations of the Medical Board’s laws and rules.

In addition, the Medical Board is to review similar prior Board actions and make a determination that is consistent with similar sanctions that have been imposed in similar cases in the past. This is called following precedence.

However, this is all “In Theory”.  What we have seen in the past year is that the Medical Board has been reluctant to follow the disciplinary guidelines (they are advisory only, not mandatory) and the Board has been unwilling to follow prior Board decisions in imposing discipline against physicians.

This change can be based on a variety of factors. First, each year as Board vacancies open up, the Governor is charged with appointing new Board members. New members often come to the Board and look at cases differently than former Board panels.  This change can be refreshing as a shakeup in the Board makeup can bring fresh perspectives to the Board. However, it also leads to inconsistent results, and leaves members of the medical community unaware of how they might be sanctioned if they do violate a Board law or rule.

Recently, we have seen that if the case before the Board does not affect the physician’s medical practice (i.e. a conviction unrelated to medicine) that the Board members have been reluctant to sanction the physician. On the opposite end, if the case involves prescribing of pain medications or even minor violations of a prior Board sanction, the Board has been very punitive.

In this time of uncertainly, I still believe that you put your client in the best position before the Board if you provide the Board Members with as much information through the settlement or hearing process as possible. Board Members often complain that they do not have enough information about the physician to make a reasoned decision about their case. Therefore, I have found that while the Disciplinary Guidelines and prior case actions can be helpful in determining how the Board might proceed in any case, a recommended way to handle any case is to put as much information about the physician and their facts and circumstances about their case before the Board.  This might mean taking more cases to hearing than the Board has seen in recent years.  However, until the Board settles into a rhythm of making consistent decisions on similar cases, this might be the only way to effectively represent the client before the Board.

As always, if you have any questions about this post or the State Medical Board of Ohio in general, please feel free to contact one of the attorneys at Collis, Smiles and Collis at 614-486-3909, check out our website for more information at www.collislaw.com or email me at beth@collislaw.com.

Physicians .. have you read the rules?

The practice of medicine in Ohio is outlined by one statute section, Ohio Revised Code 4731, and one set of rules drafted by the Medical Board, Ohio Administrative Code 4731. This Code section and these rule outline the requirements to be licensed as a physician, podiatrist, massage therapist or physician’s assistant in Ohio and also define the scope of practice of medicine in Ohio. However, I am always surprised that most physicians with whom I speak have no idea that these laws and rules even exist.

Ohio Revised Code Chapter 4731 is the law governing the practice of medicine in Ohio. The Ohio Administrative Code is drafted by the Medical Board members and is reviewed and approved through a rule making process. Physicians in Ohio are required to know, understand and follow the guidelines established in these laws and rules.

These laws and rules can be found at the Medical Board’s website at: http://www.med.state.oh.us. You can also follow the following link to find these sections: http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/4731
or for the administrative rules go to: http://codes.ohio.gov/oac/4731

Pertinent sections of these laws and rules include:

Basis for disciplinary action can be found at R.C. 4731.22(B) which can be found at: http://codes.ohio.gov/orc/4731.22.

To learn more about licensing and continuing education go to: OAC 4731-10, which can be found at: http://codes.ohio.gov/oac/4731-10.

To learn more about prescribing of controlled substances go to: OAC 4731-11, which can be found at: http://codes.ohio.gov/oac/4731-11.

To learn more about the Medical Board’s hearing process go to: OAC 4731-13, which can be found at: http://codes.ohio.gov/oac/4731-13.

To learn more about the duty to report to the Medical Board go to: OAC 4731-15, which can be found at: http://codes.ohio.gov/oac/4731-15.

To learn more about what to do if you believe you suffer from  chemical dependency go to: OAC 4731-17, which can be found at:  http://codes.ohio.gov/oac/4731-17.

As practicing medical professionals in Ohio, you are required to know, understand and follow the laws  and rules in ORC 4731 and OAC 4731. Take the time to read the rules and, if you have questions, contact experienced legal counsel to assist you.

As always, if you have any questions about this post, please feel free to contact me at beth@collislaw.com.

Physicians .. do you need a vacation?

I have written about work/life balance in the past (see “Do You Have Balance in your Life,” April 18, 2012) however, as the holiday season approaches, I think it is important to consider whether this is a good time to suggest taking a break from the hectic pace of your practice. In the news again today, there was a story about how Americans are given less vacation days per year than any other major industrial nation (10 days vs. 30 days for most Europeans) and that Americans rarely use all their vacation days. http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/3041440/vp/50068545#50068545

Many people think that they are too busy to take a vacation or that if they leave for even a few days they will return to even more work than when they left. In some cases, Americans are afraid that if they do take a few days off their bosses will recognize that they are dispensable and may re-assign their work and their job to others. Despite whatever real or imaginary fears you might have about taking a break from work, the reality is that everyone needs to rest, relax and step back from the stress of their daily lives so that they have the energy to return to the workplace prepared to work. Physicians are no exception. Physicians deal with extremely stressful situations on a daily basis. Failure to take the appropriate breaks from your practice can lead to weight gain, depression, additional stress and poor decision-making.

As noted in previous posts, stress can lead physicians to make poor decisions related to patient care or can lead to them making poor personal decisions such as drinking and driving, committing a boundary violation with a patient, or seeking unacceptable ways to relieve stress such as sharing personal information with patients or “friending” patients on social media sites.  Ultimately, failure to implement appropriate stress management tools, including taking a vacation, can lead to future professional problems.

Whether you choose to stay home for a “staycation” or take that long-awaited trip, give yourself (and your practice) a break. It will do you a world of good.

As always, if you have any questions about the State Medical Board of Ohio or this post, please feel free to call me at (614) 486-3909 or email me at beth@collislaw.com.  My office will be closed from December 24, 2012 to January 3, 2013 to give everyone at CSC a much needed break.