Steering Clear of OPMC: A Guide for NY Physicians
The prevalence of medical malpractice lawsuits in New York is enough to scare many physicians out of practicing medicine. Unfortunately, “defensive” medicine has become part and parcel of current practice as physicians search for safeguards against malpractice lawsuits. Nevertheless, we continue to see exorbitant malpractice awards being levied against physicians. But physicians in New York may have an even bigger worry — an investigation by the Office of Professional Medical Conduct (“OPMC”).
Physicians are strongly encouraged to seek the counsel of a health care attorney if notified that the OPMC has commenced an investigation.
What Is the OPMC and Why Is It so Scary?
The OPMC is the division of the New York State Department of Health tasked with investigating allegations of physician misconduct. If a patient files a complaint against you, the OPMC will launch an investigation. The complaint can relate to any type of medical misconduct, including negligence, harassment, or any other mistreatment of a patient, and making false statements, to name just a few.
It is essential to properly deal with an OPMC investigation at the onset, as investigations that are successfully closed in the initial stage do not become matters of public record. If, however, the OPMC determines that you did commit misconduct, the allegations become public and can lead to insurance and privilege terminations, not to mention damage to your reputation.
How to Avoid Disciplinary Action By the OPMC
You can implement certain measures in your practice to protect yourself in the event a patient complains to OPMC:
- Keep thorough and accurate records of every patient visit and all communications with patients
- Obtain informed consent before treatment
- Avoid guarantees of treatment outcomes
- Carefully monitor employees and colleagues
- Maintain appropriate boundaries with patients
- Never falsify records
- Comply with HIPAA and privacy laws
- Carry adequate malpractice coverage
Tips for Responding to an OPMC Investigation
- Consult an experienced OPMC defense attorney as soon as you are notified of an investigation. They can guide you through the process.
- Do not speak to investigators without your attorney present. Even if you believe you’ve done nothing wrong, statements can be misconstrued.
- Be sure to respond to document requests in a timely manner. However, have your lawyer review before submitting.
- Ask your lawyer to attend interviews with OPMC officials. Testimony can be used against you.
- Begin gathering evidence, such as medical records, correspondence with patients, and performance reviews, that supports your defense.
- Make sure you understand the charges if formal allegations are made so your lawyer can prepare your defense strategy.
- Explore the possibility of a settlement to avoid a hearing. Your attorney can negotiate a consent order on your behalf if appropriate.
- Know your rights throughout the process. You are entitled to due process protections.
An OPMC investigation is serious business. The consequences of disciplinary action can damage your professional as well as personal reputation, hospital privileges, and career. Protect yourself by acting quickly to consult an experienced medical license defense attorney if you receive notice of an OPMC investigation. With the right legal guidance, you can avoid the harshest penalties and resolve the matter as favorably as possible. Don’t leave your livelihood to chance – get experienced legal counsel on your side right away.