Board of Dentistry Considers Adding Failure to Provide Dental Records to “Citation” Offenses

4 Indest-2009-3By 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 21, 2014, it discussed a proposed change to Rule 64B5-13.0046, Florida Administrative Code. The amendment would add a provision for failing to timely produce dental records to patients. This addition should help dentists avoid receiving permanent discipline on their records for a minor technical violation.

Considered was the addition of the following language to the existing Rule, listing citation-approved offenses:

Violation of subsection 466.028(1)(n), F.S., failure to timely make available to a patient or client, or to his legal representative or to the Department, if authorized in writing by the patient, copies of documents in the possession or under control of the licensee, which relate to the patient or client. Timely means less than 30 days from the receipt of the written authorization. The subject of the citation has 10 days from the date the citation becomes a final order to release the patient records. Failure to comply will result in a $1,000.00 fine.


Citation vs. Charge
.

TIDCHAAn administrative citation such as those discussed is not considered to be discipline, but an alternative to discipline. The dentist can accept the citation and pay the fine; therefore the citation will not be recorded on his/her record as discipline. For more on this issue, read my blog on citations against physicians and other health professionals.

This is a good development for dentists as it allows the resolution of minor technical violations of statutes and rules without the very undesirable effect of creating a disciplinary record. We sometimes jokingly refer to these as “speeding tickets” since they carry a fine but are not considered to be permanent disciplinary action.

Carefully Review and Promptly Respond in Citation Cases.

Take immediately action on any proposed citation you receive from the Department of Health (DOH). Consult immediately with a health attorney who is experienced at representing dentists in Board of Dentistry matters. Click here for a previous blog on why you should speak with an attorney first.

In most cases, you will probably be advised to accept the citation and pay the fine. If so, be sure to submit the signed agreement, ending it by a method that documents sending and receipt (such as certified mail, return receipt requested), and keep a copy of all documents you submit. Make sure it is received (not sent) by the due date. Call to make sure it was received.

For additional information on citations in disciplinary cases, click here.

In Limited Circumstances, You May Not Want to Accept the Citation.

insurance policyIn limited circumstances, it may not be advisable to accept a citation. This may occur if there is pending litigation involving the subject of the citation. If the wrong person is named in the citation, this may be another reason for not accepting it. If you did not commit the offense and you are sure you can prove this, you may also desire to not accept the citation. This is especially true if you have dental liability insurance coverage which pays for a legal defense in such administrative disciplinary cases involving professional license defense.

For more information on dental license defense, read this previous blog.

If You Do Not Accept the Citation, Be Prepared for an Administrative Complaint.

If you do not accept the citation within the limited time given (usually 30 days), or if you send back a statement regarding why it is unfair or why you did not commit the violation, this will usually be treated as a statement disputing material facts. In this event, the case will be treated as though you were requesting a formal administrative hearing. You will be given a regular formal hearing (trial) with an administrative law judge from the Division of Administrative Hearings (DOAH). For information on hearings in dental cases, click here.

Be Sure Your Staff Knows How to Treat Record Requests.

Be sure that when your office receives a request for a patient’s dental chart that the request is promptly reviewed by someone in management. Management must make sure the authorization or subpoena is valid (remember HIPAA) and that the record is provided in a timely manner. Paying attention to such requests may allow you to detect and act on potential dental medical malpractice claims or DOH complaints. You should have a written office policy on this that every employee has signed.

Remember you are not authorized to withhold a patient’s dental record because the patient has not paid a bill. You are not authorized to withhold the chart because you are angry at the patient or the patient has threatened to sue you. Be sure to provide the patient (or his/her representative) a copy of the record within 30 days. Keep a copy of the letter transmitting the copy in the chart and annotate the HIPAA medical information disclosure form in the record.

Comments?

What do you think of a citation versus a charge in regard to promptly getting patients their dental records? 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: 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 © 1999-2015 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

Dentists: Tightened Controls on Prescribing to Medicare Part D Patients Could Affect Your Practice

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

Starting June 1, 2015, Medicare Part D will no longer reimburse patients or pharmacies for prescriptions unless the dentist opts in and enrolls in Medicare, or opts out and enters into a private contract with the patient. This measure is part of a rule finalized by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The purpose of the rule is to assist CMS in cracking down on doctors, dentists and other health care providers that are improperly prescribing drugs to Medicare patients.

Medicare Part D plans provide supplemental optional coverage for prescription medication used in dentistry, are administered by private health plans and are paid for by way of premiums. As a dentist, if you have patients with Medicare Part D, you need to choose whether to enroll as a Medicare provider or to opt out. Click here to read the final rule from CMS.

Specifics of the New Rule.

Dentists have until June 2015 to either enroll in Medicare or formally opt out. When a dentist enrolls, the government verifies his or her professional license and credentials, and checks his or her criminal history. In addition, the final rule expands rewards and incentive programs focusing on participation in activities that promote improved health, efficient use of health-care resources and preventing injuries and illness.

One new stipulation is that the federal government has the authority to expel physicians from Medicare if found to be prescribing drugs in an abusive manner or in violation of Medicare rules. In addition, CMS will be able to terminate a dentist’s Medicare enrollment if his or her Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) certification has been revoked, or if the state licensing board has stripped his or her authority to prescribe drugs.

To read more on how abusive prescribing patterns will be determined, click here.

Enrolling Versus Opting Out.

If you enroll in Medicare Part D as a treating provider, then you are going to be subject to increased oversight and regulations, including:

- Fraud investigations;
– The minimum patient record retention increases from four to five years;
– You must be careful when denying services to Medicare recipients;
– You can’t charge Medicare for missed appointments; and
– You may have a percentage of your Medicare reimbursement withheld beginning next year if you don’t have electronic health records (EHRs).

On the other hand, if you opt out of part of Medicare, then you opt out of other parts as well, which may lead to a loss in revenue and disgruntled patients.

Examine Your Practice and Make Your Own Decision.

Your decision to enroll in or opt out of Medicare should be determined by the types of patients you treat and the services you provide. If your practice consists of patients under the age of 65, you may be unaffected by this rule. However, if you practice in an area with an older population, Medicare coverage is more likely to be part of your practice. The important point is to understand how it may or may not affect your practice’s bottom line. If you need some guidance or have questions, call an attorney experienced in representing dentists.

Comments?

Will this final rule affect you? If so, how? 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: 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 © 1999-2015 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Dangerous Dentistry: What One Connecticut Dentist Did That Got His License Suspended

5 Indest-2008-2By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

Connecticut officials have suspended the license of an Enfield, Connecticut, dentist after a patient apparently died in the dentist’s chair on February 17, 2014. In a single visit the dentist allegedly attempted to extract 20 teeth from a 64-year-old woman who had prior health issues on record. One of the dental assistants reportedly begged for the procedure to be cut short after the patient began gurgling and lost consciousness. CPR was performed on the unresponsive patient before she was transported to a local hospital where she was pronounced dead.

According to WGGB ABC40, the dentist faces a hearing before the Connecticut State Dental Board on June 18, 2014.

To read the article from WGGB ABC40, click here.

A Repeat Offender.

The state of Connecticut alleges that in addition to the botched extraction, the dentist also failed to properly respond when the patient’s oxygen levels dramatically dropped. According to New York Daily News, state records show a four-count petition claiming that the dentist “deviated from the standard of care in that he did not timely and/or properly respond to (the patient’s)… respiratory distress and/or cardiopulmonary distress.” The patient’s official cause of death is yet to be formally determined.

The dentist’s license, issued by the state of Connecticut in 2003, was suspended April 21, 2014, pending the hearing. This is not the first legal run-in for the dentist. According to New York Daily News, in December 2014 the dentist was performing a procedure when his patient began to “aspirate the throat pack” and was rushed to a nearby hospital. The patient in this case spent six days in the hospital with heart and lung damage.

The dentist was also sued for malpractice by a former employee in 2009. Shoddy dental work was cited as the claim. The ruling ended in an out-of-court settlement. To read more from the New York Daily News article, click here.

Take ESOs Seriously.

An emergency suspension order (ESO) can be issued when a healthcare professional is posing a threat to the public. In this case, the dentist had a lengthy past of legal issues that would inevitably draw attention to his practice as a hazard. It is important to note that when a practitioner exhibits a pattern of reckless behavior numerous times, an ESO commonly follows thereafter. When an ESO is issued, a practitioner must immediately cease all practice until the suspension is lifted. Even an alleged case of malpractice can deem a healthcare practitioner an ESO. Receiving an ESO is a very serious matter. Many healthcare practitioners tend to overlook the severity of this action. You need to consistently practice proper ethics and install a system of checks and balances within your office to ensure the protection of your practice and license.

As a professional, you should take any and all necessary precautions to protect your license and reputation. Proactively avoid any irregular behaviors or fraudulent actions that could put your license at risk. If you find yourself in a situation where you are served an ESO it is vital that you immediately hire a professional and experienced healthcare attorney to represent you. If it’s a matter of not being able to afford the expenses in hiring an attorney, look at it this way: your livelihood is on the line, you can’t afford NOT to.

Anytime you suspect a claim or a complaint may be filed against you, immediately hire an attorney experienced in such matters.

Comments?

Emergency suspension orders are a common concern for healthcare professionals and their careers. What types of regulations, guidelines or practices do you mandate in your office in order to avoid a potential crisis such as an ESO? Do you have any personal experiences in dealing with ESOs? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Emergency Suspension Orders and Other Licensure Actions.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm are experienced in handling licensure and disciplinary cases, including emergency suspension orders, administrative complaints, investigations, administrative hearings, investigations, licensing issues, settlements and more. If you are currently facing adverse action by the DOH contact one of our attorneys by calling (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001. You can also visit our website for more information at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

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

Sources:

“Conn. Suspends Enfield Dentist’s License After Patient Death.” WGGB ABC40. (May 19, 2014). From: http://www.wggb.com/2014/05/19/conn-suspends-enfield-denists-license-after-patient-death/

Goldstein, Sasha. “Connecticut Dentist Suspended After Patient Dies While Having 20 Teeth Pulled in One Visit.” New York Daily News. (May 27, 2014). From: http://on.flatoday.com/1vBJZAd

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.