Attorney Beth Collis quoted in Medscape article on Medical Board investigations

Attorney Beth Collis, of Collis Law Group LLC, was quoted in a Medscape article titled “The Dangers of a Medical Board Investigation: How to Protect Yourself”. In the article Ms. Collis addresses the 9,000 complaints that the State Medical Board of Ohio receives each year. “Many are minor or frivolous, such as allegations that the doctor or his staff was rude to the patient or family, billing questions, being forced to wait too long for an appointment, etc. The Board generally doesn’t take action in these cases and may not even inform the doctor of them.”

Ms. Collis also addresses how it is necessary for physicians to respond to Board investigations or inquiries. Ms. Collis warns physicians against ignoring inquiries from the Board, or from talking to the Board without counsel. “No complaint is too minor. Too many physicians think they don’t need a lawyer and can just talk the Board investigators into dropping the complaint. Doctors may sincerely want to help but they don’t understand the rules and pitfalls. They are often too chatty and explain things that weren’t even asked.” Legal counsel is recommended for any physician in connection with any Medical Board investigation or disciplinary action.

Read the article, written by Mark Crane, by clicking on the following link: https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/899247_2

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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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.

Medical Practice Closure Considerations

We receive questions concerning the steps that are required or necessary in connection with the closure of a medical practice.  Typically, a physician who has devoted their entire life to the day-to-day practice of medicine is faced with numerous legal, accounting, and administrative tasks, some of which extend beyond the actual shut-down of the practice.  Planning, organization, communication, and administration are key elements to avoid issues after the closure.

Practice closure matters include but are not limited to:

Staff Notification: Staff of the practice should be notified of the closure.  A physician may have to prepare to hire temporary staff if employees leave prior to closing date.

Patient Notification: The State Medical Board of Ohio (“Ohio Medical Board”) has laws and rules pertaining to the notice that a physician is required to give patients.  These laws and rules include, but are not limited to, when notice must be given, the information that is required to be included in the notice, and how notice must be given.

Government/Payor/Agency Notifications: Notice concerning the closure of the practice must be coordinated and given to entities including, but not limited to, the DEA, Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance payors, hospitals, professional associations, and the Ohio Medical Board.  Each entity may have different requirements.

Professional Liability Insurance: If necessary, extended reporting professional liability insurance (so called, “tail coverage”) should be obtained, which provides coverage against claims reported after the liability policy expires.

Medical Records: The storage or transfer of paper and electronic medical records in compliance with Federal and State law including, but not limited to, HIPAA must be completed.  An address or PO Box to receive, and procedure to respond to, medical records requests after the closure of the medical practice must be established and followed.

Service and Supply Providers: Notice concerning the closure of the practice to providers including, but not limited to, providers of ancillary services, medical supplies, and other services and supplies should be coordinated and given.  Accounts with such providers should be closed.

Business Entity Issues: Termination of any Lease Agreement(s), termination of utilities services, collection of accounts receivables, sale of medical and office equipment, dissolving the medical practice legal entity with the Ohio Secretary of State, and filing of final Federal, State, and local tax returns must be coordinated and completed.

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 Todd@collislaw.com.

Ohio Physicians: Timely open and respond to all letters from the Medical Board

Keep your address up to date

As a physician licensed to practice medicine in Ohio, you are required (under R.C. 4731.281) to maintain your current accurate mailing address with the State Medical Board of Ohio. You may update your address online at: http://med.ohio.gov/UpdateAddress.aspx

The address on file with the Medical Board will be the official address that the Board will use to contact a physician if they become the subject of an investigation, or if the Board proposes to take a disciplinary action against a physician.

Certified Mail

If the Medical Board takes an action against a physician, they will be mailed a letter outlining the charges to their address of record with the Board. Under RC 119.07, the Notice of a Board Order shall be given by registered mail, return receipt requested, and shall include the charges or other reasons for the proposed action, the law or rule directly involved, and a statement informing that the party is entitled to a hearing if the party requests it within thirty days of the time of mailing the notice.

If you receive a certified mail from the Medical Board, it is imperative that you open it!  If the Medical Board has mailed a certified letter to a physician, it will include important information and often requires an action to be taken by the physician within a short period of time.

For example, if the Medical Board issues a Notice of Opportunity for Hearing to a physician, the physician is only provided with 30 days (from the date of mailing by the Board) to request a hearing. Failure to timely request a hearing may result in a board-ordered sanction, and the physician would be provided with no means to defend their case. The sanction takes the form of a Final Adjudication Order under RC 119.

Failure to cooperate in an Investigation

Failing to respond to a subpoena request or to respond to Interrogatory questions sent from the Medical Board may also result in a disciplinary action taken against the physician by the Medical Board. R.C. 4731.22(34) provides that failure to cooperate in an investigation conducted by the Board, including failure to answer a subpoena or order issued by the Board, or failure to answer truthfully a question presented by the Board in an investigative interview, an investigative office conference, at a deposition, or in written interrogatories, will result in disciplinary action.

Publication notification

If you fail to accept delivery of certain notifications, the Medical Board has the authority to publish the notification in your local newspaper. If any notice sent is returned for failure of delivery, the agency either shall make personal delivery of the notice by an employee or the agent shall publish the notice once a week for three consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation in the county where the last known address of the party is located. When notice is given by publication, a proof of publication affidavit, with the first publication of the notice set forth in the affidavit, shall be mailed by ordinary mail to the party at the party’s last known address and the notice shall be deemed received as of the date of the last publication.

Refusal of delivery by personal service or mail is not failure to deliver and service is still deemed to be complete. Therefore, it is important to keep your address up to date in order to accept all certified mail that is sent from the Medical Board. Be sure to carefully review all letters from the Board as they often include short timelines in which a response may be required.

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

Being Investigated by the Medical Board? When to hire an attorney

I am often asked by physicians when is the best time to hire an attorney if they are being investigated by the State Medical Board of Ohio. The short answer is, the sooner the better.

The Medical Board is a governmental body that is established to regulate the practice of medicine in Ohio. As a regulatory agency, the Medical Board is required to investigate all complaints that are received related to physicians.

The Medical Board will assign an investigator to collect initial information related to the complaint. The investigator may request to meet with the physician to ask questions about the complaint. The Medical Board has the authority to subpoena medical records, to send the physician Interrogatory questions (questions the physician must respond to under oath), and may order the physician to a Deposition at the Medical Board office.

Any and all information submitted to the Medical Board or to the Medical Board’s investigator may be used as evidence to sanction a physician. Occasionally, physicians will speak with investigators, respond to Interrogatory questions, and even attend a Deposition without legal counsel. Many physicians believe that if they have “nothing to hide” they see no reason to retain an attorney. This is often a mistake.

The value of hiring experience legal counsel BEFORE you provide any information to the Medical Board is to help guide the physician through the investigative process, to help the physician understand all questions that are asked, and to assist the physician to provide information only as to what is being asked (and not irrelevant information and/or emotional or argumentative commentary).

Even if the physician believes the investigation is meritless, they still have a duty to cooperate in the investigation. The Board is required to investigate all complaints and has the authority and ability to close meritless complaints. However, by failing to provide clear, accurate, and timely responses to the Medical Board, the physician can exacerbate and/or extend the investigation. By arguing with investigators or providing non-responsive or argumentative replies to the Medical Board, the physician runs the risk of the investigator continuing the investigation or including in their investigation information which could have a negative impact for the physician.

The Board has no time limit to complete an investigation and often investigations can drag out for years.

In addition, once the physician responds to questions from the Medical Board, it is nearly impossible to “change your story”. Therefore, prior to responding to a Medical Board investigation, the physician should know and understand the law as it relates to the questions they are being asked. If the physician is not in compliance with the law, they should have a plan in place as to HOW they will come into compliance. Therefore, the sooner the physician retains experienced legal counsel, the more assistance legal counsel can provide.

Generally speaking, if the physician chooses to meet with the Medical Board investigator, respond to Interrogatory questions, and/or attend a Deposition without legal counsel, there is far less that legal counsel can do to assist the physician if the Medical Board institutes a disciplinary action.

I have also been asked if retaining legal counsel makes the physician look “defensive”. In my experience, the Medical Board respects the assistance of experienced legal counsel and understands that the entire investigative process is smoother when the physician is represented and informed.

As always, if you have any questions about the State Medical Board of Ohio in general or this blog post, please contact me at Beth@collislaw.com, check our firm website at http://www.collislaw.com or call to speak with one of the attorneys at the Collis Law Group, LLC at 614-486-3909.