Florida Board of Dentistry Proposes Change to Minimum Record Keeping Requirements for Dentists

DPP_1By Christopher E. Brown, J.D., The Health Law Firm

On August 22, 2014, the Florida Board of Dentistry will meet to discuss implementing new requirements for record keeping. We believe that these changes are due to the Board’s concern over potential ambiguity with the current regulations, and due to the recent difficulty it had in disciplining Florida dentists for record keeping violations.

Read on for an outline of the proposed new requirements. Be sure to check this blog regularly. We will have a firm representative at this meeting and will post any updates.

Current Florida Rule.

Rule 64B5-17.002, Florida Administrative Code, provides the minimum record keeping requirements placed on Florida’s dentists. Currently, the rule requires a dentist to record the following information:

(a) Appropriate medical history;
(b) Results of clinical examination and tests conducted, including the identification, or lack thereof, of any oral pathology or diseases;
(c) Any radiographs used for the diagnosis or treatment of the patient;
(d) Treatment plan proposed by the dentist; and
(e) Treatment rendered to the patient.

Outline of Proposed New Requirements.

The proposed rule change will amend the Rule 64B5-17.002, Florida Administrative Code, as follows:

(a) Appropriate medical history, including any current or previous medical conditions, surgeries, hospitalizations, medications, and legible blood pressure readings (when taken). The updating and review of the medical history must also be documented.
(b) Results of clinical examinations and tests conducted, including the identification, or lack thereof, of any oral pathology or diseases.
(c) Any radiographs to include Cone Beam Computer Tomography (CBCT), and the results used for the diagnosis or treatment of the patient.
(d) Treatment plan and treatment options proposed by the dentist.
(e) Treatment rendered to the patient, including but not limited to the following, when applicable to the treatment performed:

(i) Type, amount, and mode of delivery (i.e., Mandibular block, Infiltration, etc.) of local anesthesia used;
(ii) Type and shade of restorative material used;
(iii) Preoperative and/or postoperative medications prescribed;
(iv) Medications delivered, administered, or provided to the patient during treatment or for use following treatment;
(v) Radiographs taken;
(vi) Impression material and type of impression taken (i.e., maxillary, mandibular, interocclusal, digital, etc.);
(vii) Medicaments, medications, sutures, irrigants, or bases applied to teeth or   periodontal tissues;
(viii) Names or initials of all staff involved with clinical care of the patient;
(ix) Use of dental barrier or rubber dam;
(x) Tooth or arch treated identified by name, number or letter;
(xi) Working length, canals treated, identify untreated canals and reason left untreated,  master apical file size, and obturation materials used during endodontic procedures; and
(xii) Unusual or unexpected events or reactions during or after the procedure including, but not limited to separation, breakage, retention, swallowing or aspiration, of any  instrument or portion thereof.

In addition to the above changes, the Board is also seeking a number of other amendments to the rule, including additional requirements for record alterations and duties of dentists of record.

The complete proposed rule change can be found at: http://bit.ly/1vr4Cxw

Comments?

Did you know about these proposed changes? If imposed, how will the changes affect you? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Consult With An Attorney Experienced in the Representation of Dentists.

We routinely provide deposition coverage to dentists, dental hygienists and other health professionals being deposed in criminal cases, negligence cases, civil cases or disciplinary cases involving other health professionals.

The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in both formal and informal administrative hearings and in representing dentists and dental hygienists and other health professionals in investigations and at Board of Dentistry hearings. Call now or visit our website http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

About the Author: Christopher E. Brown, J.D., is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2014 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Florida Dentist Performs Disappearing Act With Patients’ Money

8 Indest-2008-5By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

A Pensacola, Florida, dentist has disappeared, with his patients’ cash, and now the Escambia Sheriff’s Office is looking for both, according to a number of news sources. According to the Pensacola News Journal, the dentist closed his practice months ago without alerting his patients or performing services for which they had already paid. On January 23, 2014, the sheriff’s office sent out a request for former patients of the dentist to come forward.

Click here to read the Pensacola News Journal article.

Dentist’s Checkered Past.

According to the Florida Department of Health (DOH), in 2003 and 2006, the dentist had disciplinary actions taken against him by the Florida Board of Dentistry. The Board ruled that the dentist was negligent and failed to meet minimum standards of dental performance for misdiagnosing a patient and failing to correct the patient’s dental issues. The Board also ruled that the dentist misrepresented himself as an orthodontic specialist, when he was a general practice dentist practicing in the area of orthodontics. Click here to view the discipline cases.

Currently, the DOH website lists the dentist’s license as active.

Victims Paid for a Number of Services Never Performed.

According to the Escambia Sheriff’s Office, a number of former patients have already come forward. They claim they paid for braces, dentures and other orthodontic work that was never performed. The sheriff’s office is looking for other former patients. The ABC station in Pensacola is reporting that these victims are organizing themselves on a Facebook group.

Click here to watch the news story.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Dentists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to dentists in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations, Board of Dentistry and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

Our firm also routinely represents physicians, dentists, orthodontists, medical groups, clinics, pharmacies, home health care agencies, nursing homes and other health care providers in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits and recovery actions.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

What do you think of this story? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Robinson, Kevin. “ECSO: Investigators Seeking Victims of Disappearing Dentist.” Pensacola News Journal. (January 23, 2014). From: http://www.pnj.com/article/20140123/NEWS11/140123006/ECSO-Investigators-seeking-victims-disappearing-dentist?nclick_check=1

Fernandez, Jenise. “Updated: Orthodontist Disappearance Investigation.” WEAR. (January 23, 2014). From: http://www.weartv.com/news/features/top-stories/stories/updated-orthodonist-disappearance-investigation-40700.shtml

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

 

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999. 

Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Florida Board of Dentistry Warns About Responding to or Consulting with Individuals Over Internet About Dental Issues

8 Indest-2008-5By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

At the Florida Board of Dentistry meeting held on November 15, 2013, one of the committee chairs discussed an issue that has arisen nationally that is causing dentists legal problems. The issue arises when individuals contact a dentist over the internet seeking “information” on a dental condition or problem, and possible actions or procedures that can resolve these issues.

The concern with this is that the dentist may actually be diagnosing a dental condition or problem the individual has. The bigger concern is that if the individual contacting the dentist for information is in a different state from the one in which the dentist is licensed. Then the dentist is actually practicing dentistry in the state in which the individual is located.

In this blog I will discuss some of the issues a dentist can encounter when diagnosing a condition or problem over the internet. I will also talk about ways a dentist can reduce his or her risk.

Issues Dentists Can Face When Diagnosing a Condition Over the Web.

This can cause a myriad of different problems for the dentist involved in these situations:

1.  By diagnosing in a state in which the dentist is not licensed, he or she is engaging in the unlicensed practice of dentistry in that state. This can lead to criminal charges in that state and disciplinary actions in the state where the dentist is licensed.

2.  Cases have arisen where incorrect diagnoses have been rendered because the individual failed to provide complete information and the dentist failed to physically examine the individual or follow other procedures normally followed.

3.  There have been instances where such individuals have filed complaints or claims against dentists for providing them information upon which they relied.

4.  In most cases, a dentist’s professional liability (dental malpractice) insurance will not cover professional negligence in another state.

Recommendations to Reduce Risk.

I recommend that dentists take the following steps to help reduce risk if involved in providing information to non-patients over the internet or in the media (radio, television, newspaper, etc.):

1.  Make sure that you have proper warnings and disclaimers that are included in every such e-mail communication or listserv communication you make. Include:

A.  Include the state in which the dentist is licensed/practicing and state that the communication is not considered to be diagnosing, prescribing, treating or practicing any profession in any other state or jurisdiction.

B.  Include a disclaimer or statement in every e-mail listserv or other communication with non-patients that you are providing general information for educational purposes only and the individual must see and follow the advice of a dentist in his or her geographic area to make any diagnoses.

C.  Include that the person receiving the information cannot rely on it for treatment purposes since an actual physical examination must take place before any reliable information/recommendations can be made in any individual’s case.

2.  Inquire with your professional liability insurer or agent to ask about “broad form coverage” and attempt to obtain coverage that includes educational activities, marketing activities and other similar activities. Make sure the broad form coverage also covers these activities in different states.

3.  Make sure your professional liability insurance provides coverage for legal expenses involved in defending against administrative complaints and investigations initiated by any state or federal agency that could result in disciplinary action against you or your license. You probably need at least $25,000 in coverage for this. However, $50,000 or $75,000 in coverage for such matters is preferred. Buy this coverage separately if necessary. Lloyd’s of London provides such coverage separately.

4.  Find out where the individual contacting you resides or is communicating from. Require complete information, including complete name, address and telephone numbers.

5.  Be extremely reluctant to criticize care, services, procedures, materials or appliances used or prescribed by other dentists.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Dentists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to dentists in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations, Board of Dentistry and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

Have you ever been asked to consult with a patient over the internet? Did you know all of these issues could up? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Florida Board of Dentistry Warns About Responding to or Consulting with Individuals Over Internet About Dental Issues

1 Indest-2008-1By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

At the Florida Board of Dentistry meeting held on November 15, 2013, one of the committee chairs discussed an issue that has arisen nationally that is causing dentists legal problems. The issue arises when individuals contact a dentist over the internet seeking “information” on a dental condition or problem, and possible treatment or procedures that can resolve these issues.

The concern is that the dentist may actually be diagnosing a dental condition or problem the individual has. The bigger concern arises if the individual contacting the dentist is in a different state from the one in which the dentist is licensed. Then the dentist is actually practicing dentistry in the state in which the individual is located.

In this blog I will discuss some of the issues a dentist can encounter when diagnosing a condition or problem over the internet. I will also talk about ways a dentist can reduce his or her risk.

Issues Dentists Can Face When Diagnosing a Condition Over the Web.

Diagnosing a non-patient over the internet can cause a myriad of different problems for the dentist involved, including these situations:

1. By diagnosing in a state in which the dentist is not licensed, he or she is engaging in the unlicensed practice of dentistry in that state. This can lead to criminal charges in that state and disciplinary actions in the state where the dentist is licensed.

2. Cases have arisen where incorrect diagnoses have been rendered because the individual failed to provide complete information, and the dentist failed to physically examine the individual or follow other procedures normally followed.

3. There have been instances where such individuals have filed complaints or claims against dentists for providing them information upon which they relied.

4. In most cases, a dentist’s professional liability (dental malpractice) insurance will not cover professional negligence in another state.

Recommendations to Reduce Risk.

I recommend that dentists take the following steps to help reduce risk if involved in providing information to non-patients over the internet or in the media (radio, television, newspaper, etc.):

1. Make sure that you have proper warnings and disclaimers that are included in every such e-mail communication or listserv communication you make.

A. Include the state in which the dentist is licensed/practicing and explain that the communication is not considered to be diagnosing, prescribing, treating or practicing any profession in any other state or jurisdiction.

B. Include a disclaimer or statement in every e-mail listserv or other communication with non-patients that you are providing general information for educational purposes only, and the individual must seek and follow the advice of a dentist in his or her geographic area to make any diagnoses.

C. Include that the person receiving the information cannot rely on it for treatment purposes since an actual physical examination must take place before any reliable information/recommendations can be made in any individual’s case.

2. Inquire with your professional liability insurer or agent to ask about “broad form coverage” and attempt to obtain coverage that includes educational activities, marketing activities and other similar activities. Make sure the “broad form coverage” also covers these activities in different states.

3. Make sure your professional liability insurance provides coverage for legal expenses involved in defending against administrative complaints and investigations initiated by any state or federal agency that could result in disciplinary action against you or your license. You probably need at least $25,000 in coverage for this. However, $50,000 or $75,000 in coverage for such matters is preferred. Buy this coverage separately if necessary. Lloyd’s of London provides such coverage separately.

4. Find out where the individual contacting you resides or is communicating from. Require complete information, including complete name, address and telephone numbers.

5. Be extremely reluctant to criticize care, services, procedures, materials or appliances used or prescribed by other dentists.


Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Dentists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to dentists in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations, Board of Dentistry and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

Have you ever been asked to consult with a patient over the internet? Did you know all of these issues could up? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

 

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Florida Law Prohibits Control of a Dental Practice by a Nondentist

1 Indest-2008-1By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Florida has long been a state that does not prohibit the corporate practice of medicine, unlike many other states. However, it does prohibit the corporate practice of dentistry.  The key provision in Florida law that establishes this is Section 466.028, Florida Statutes, but the Florida Board of Dentistry has also adopted administrative rules on this topic, as well.

What this means is that any corporation (or other type of business entity) that owns or operates a dental practice, under Florida law, must be one solely owned by and controlled by dentists. In this context, the term “dentists” means those licensed to practice dentistry in the state of Florida, with an active license.  Someone licensed in another state or who has a suspended or revoked license in Florida, would not meet that requirement.

Dentists Entering into Certain Types of Contracts Needs to Be Sure They Comply with the Law.

There may be certain types of contracts and agreements that a dentist or dental practice may legally enter into, especially ones that would provide administrative services or other types of non-professional services to the dentist.  These might include, for example, payroll services, staffing services (except for professional staff such as dental technicians), billing and collections services (provided the dentist retains final authority over such matters), marketing services, equipment leases (provided the dentists retains all control over the equipment), office leases, management services, or combinations of the above.  However, since any of these types of agreements may be worded so as to violate the law, a dentist should always have such an agreement reviewed in advance by his or her own experienced health attorney.  The dentist entering into any such contract must make sure he or she complies fully with the law.

Section 466.028(2), Florida Statutes, states that the purpose of the statute is to prevent any nondentists from attempting to influence or interfere with the professional judgment of the dentist.

Acts Prohibited by Law.

Acts specifically prohibited by the law include allowing a nondentist or business entity owned by a nondentist to:

1.    Employ a dentist or dental hygienist in the operation of a dental office;

2.    Control the use of any dental equipment or material while such equipment or material is being used for the provision of any dental services;

3.    Direct, control or interfere with a dentist’s clinical judgment;  and, specifically,

4.    Allowing any nondentist or organization owned by a nondentist to exercise control over:

a.    The selection of a course of treatment for a patient, the procedures or materials to be used as part of such course of treatment, and the manner in which such course of treatment is carried out by the dentist;

b.    The patient records of a dentist;

c.    Policies and decisions relating to pricing, credit, refunds, warranties and advertising; or

d.    Decisions relating to office personnel and hours of practice.

Violating Law is a Felony.

Any of these acts can result in disciplinary action against any licensed dental professional involved. More importantly, violation of this law is also a felony which may result in criminal prosecution for any person involved.  Contracts which violate the law are null and void.

Always have any contract relating to the operation of your dental practice reviewed by an experienced board certified health lawyer before signing it.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Dentists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to dentists in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations, Board of Dentistry and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

Did you know about this Florida Law that prohibits control of a dental practice by a nondentist? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Preparing for an Informal Hearing Before the Florida Board of Dentistry

By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M. Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

If you are scheduled to appear for an informal hearing before the Florida Board of Dentistry, there are a number of facts that you will want to know in order to be properly prepared.  This article will cover many of them.

Limited Circumstances for Informal Administrative Hearing.

First, you should understand that you will only be at an informal hearing in which you appear before the Board of Denstistry itself for a very limited number of reasons.  These will include the following:

1.  If you completed an election of rights (EOR) form and agreed that you did not intend to dispute any material facts alleged against you from the administrative complaint (AC) in the case.

2.  If you entered into a settlement agreement (or “stipulation”) (similar to a plea bargain in a criminal case) in which you agreed to accept discipline against your license.

3.  You failed to submit any election of rights (EOR) form and failed to file a petition for a formal hearing in a timely manner, and, therefore, you have waived your right to a formal hearing.

There are a few other circumstances in which there may be an informal hearing before the Board, such as motions to modify a final order, motion to lift a suspension of a license, appearance in accordance with an earlier order, petition for a declaratory statement, or other administrative matters.  This article only discusses those directly relating to disciplinary action as indicated above.

What an Informal Administrative Hearing Is Not.

1.  An informal administrative hearing is not an opportunity for you to tell your side of the story.  You have agreed that there are no disputed material facts in the case or you would not be at an informal hearing.

2.  An informal administrative hearing is not an opportunity for you to prove that you are innocent of the charges.  You have agreed that there are no disputed material facts in the case or you would not be at an informal hearing.

3.  An informal administrative hearing is not an opportunity for you to introduce documents or evidence to show that someone else committed the offenses charged and you did not.  You have agreed that there are no disputed material facts in the case or you would not be at an informal hearing.

4.  An informal administrative hearing is not an opportunity for you to argue that you should not be in the board’s impaired practitioners program (either the Professionals Resource Network (PRN) or the intervention Project for Nurses (IPN)) because you have completed a different program or that you do not have a problem.  These are the only programs recognized and used and you have agreed that there are no disputed material facts in the case or you would not be at an informal hearing.

Formal Administrative Hearing vs. Informal Hearing.

If you desire to contest the facts alleged against you then you must state this in writing.  If the material facts in a case are challenged by you, then the Board or the Department of Health (DOH) (note:  all professional boards are under the Department of Health in Florida) must forward your case to the Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH) where a neutral, objective administrative law judge (ALJ) will be appointed to hold a formal hearing in your case.  This is the only way that exists for you to prove that the facts alleged against you are incorrect or that you are not guilty of the charges made against you.  In fact, you do not even have to do anything in such a case.  The Department of Health has the burden of proof and it has to prove the charges against you and the material facts alleged against you by clear and convincing evidence.  Often, it is unable to do this at a formal administrative hearing.

However, because of the technicalities of evidentiary law and administrative law, we do not recommend that a nonlawyer attempt to represent himself or herself at such hearings.  You can make technical mistakes (such as answering requests for admissions incorrectly) that severely compromise any defense you may have.  We recommend that you always retain the services of an experienced health lawyer in any such matter.

What to Do If You Find That You Are at an Informal Hearing and That You Do Desire to Contest the Material Facts of the Case (And Your Guilt or Innocence).

If you have been scheduled for an informal administrative hearing and you decide that you do desire to challenge the material facts alleged against you in the administrative complaint (AC), file a written objection to proceeding at the informal hearing.  State that you have discovered that there are material facts that you do desire to challenge and that you desire that the proceedings be converted to a formal hearing.  File this with the Clerk of the administrative agency you are before (usually the department of health or the Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) and also send a copy to the opposing attorney and the executive director of the Board.  Do this as early as possible and keep proof that you have actually and filed the written request.

If you are already at the informal hearing when you discover this, object to the proceedings on the record and ask to have the informal hearing be converted to a formal hearing where you may contest the material facts.  State this as many times as reasonably possible.

Preparing for an Informal Hearing.

Since you are not contesting the facts alleged against you, if you are going to an informal hearing be sure you do the following:

1.  Be sure you know where the hearing is going to be held.  Try to stay the night before in the same hotel as the hearing will be held.  You will usually have to make these reservations early in order to get a room.

2.  Attend a Board meeting that occurs before the one at which your case is scheduled.  This will give you a feeling for the procedures that will be followed, will help to make you less nervous when you appear, and you can obtain continuing education units for doing so (be sure to sign in and sign out).  Be sure to attend one of the days when the disciplinary hearings are held.

3.  Dress professionally for the appearance.  This may be the most important event in your professional career.  For men, this means a suit and tie or, at least, a dark coat, dark slacks and a necktie.  For women, a professional business suit or the equivalent is in order.  Do not dress as if you are going to the park, the beach or out on a date.  Do not wear sexually provocative or revealing clothing.

4.  Check the agenda that is published on line a day or two before the scheduled hearing to make sure that your case is still scheduled for the date and time on the hearing notice.  Informal hearings may be moved around on the schedule.  Make sure you are there at the earliest time on the hearing notice or agenda.

5.  Listen to questions asked of you by Board members and attempt to answer them directly and succinctly.  You will be placed under oath for the proceeding and there will be a court reporter present as well as audio recording devices to take everything down.

6.  Do not argue with the Board members or lose your temper.  This is not the time or place to let this happen.  If you have such tendencies, then you should have an attorney there with you who can intercept some of the questions and can make defensive arguments (to the extent that they may be permitted) for you.

7.  You may introduce documents and evidence in mitigation.  However, you have agreed that the material facts alleged are true, so you may not contest these.  In effect, you have plead guilty and you are just arguing about how much punishment (discipline) and what kind of punishment you should receive.

8.  If you do intend to introduce documents and evidence in mitigation, be sure you know what the mitigating factors are (these are published in a separate board rule in the Florida Administrative Code for each professional board).  These may include, for example, the fact that there was no patient harm, that there was no monetary loss, that restitution has been made, the length of time the professional has been practicing, the absence of any prior discipline, etc.  You should submit these far ahead of time with a notice of filing, so that they are sent out to the board members with the other materials in your file.  This is another reason to have experienced counsel represent you at the informal hearing.

9.  Be prepared to take responsibility for your actions.  If you are not prepared to take responsibility, then this means you must believe you are innocent and you should be at a formal hearing, not an informal one.

10.  Be prepared to explain what went wrong, why it went wrong, and what remedial measures you have taken to prevent a recurrence of this type of event in the future.  Show that you have learned from this experience and that you are not going to make the same mistake again.

11.  It is our advice to always retain the services of an experienced attorney to represent you at such hearings.  Often your professional liability insurance will cover this.  If you have professional liability insurance, be sure that it contains a rider or addendum that provides coverage for professional license defense matters and administrative hearings.  You need at least $25,000 to $50,000 in coverage for this type of defense.  If necessary, you should contact your insurer or insurance agent and have the limits increased for a small additional premium.

Other Little Known Facts to Remember.

Professional licensing matters are considered to be “penal” or “quasi-criminal” in nature.  Therefore, you have your Fifth Amendment rights in relation to being required to give evidence against yourself.  You cannot be compelled to do this in such matters.  However, since it is an administrative proceeding and not a criminal proceeding, there is no requirement that the licensee be advised of this by a DOH investigator or attorney.

If you enter into a settlement agreement and attend the informal hearing to approve it, nothing you say or testify to at this hearing can later be used against you.  This is because you are involved in an attempt to negotiate and settle (or compromise) the claims being made against you.  It is a general rule of law that nothing the parties say in such settlement proceedings can later be used as evidence if the settlement agreement is not approved.  The law tries to promote settlements among parties to any dispute in this way.

It is true that on occasion the Board will examine a case on an informal hearing and will decide to dismiss it.  This is rare, but it does happen.  Sometimes, it will be a tactical decision on the part of you and your attorney to elect to go to an informal hearing with the hope that the Board may examine the case and decide to dismiss it.  However, you cannot count on this happening.

Don’t Wait Too Late;  Consult with an Experienced Health Law Attorney Early.

Do not wait until action has been taken against you to consult with an experienced attorney in these matters.  Few cases are won on appeal.  It is much easier to win your case when there is proper time to prepare and you have requested a formal hearing so that you may actually dispute the facts being alleged against you.

The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in both formal and informal administrative hearings and in representing dentists and dental hygienists  in investigations and at Board of Dentistry hearings.  Call now or visit our website http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.