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Have You Received a Letter from the ECFMG or USMLE Accusing You of Irregular Behavior? All Is Not Lost; Legal Advice Is as Close as a Phone Call Away!

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

Have you recently received a letter from the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) or the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Secretariat accusing you of “irregular behavior?” All is not lost. But you should seek advice from an attorney or law firm that has a lot of experience with such matters, before responding or doing anything else.

If You Are Innocent or Have a Believable Explanation to Justify What You Are Being Accused of Doing, You Need to Defend Yourself Against the Accusations of “Irregular Behavior.”

Yes, it is possible to successfully defend yourself against accusations of “irregular behavior.” However, we do not suggest that you should attempt to represent yourself or do this on your own. In any letter you receive on this will be advised of your rights to make a statement explaining your side, to have a hearing committee consider the matter, to appear in person before the hearing committee, and to have legal representation (an attorney) at the hearing with you to represent you. We recommend that you always ask for an exercise all of these rights.

It has been our experience that those individuals who think that they can just write a letter and explain what happened will usually not succeed. A full investigation has already been conducted by the USMLE or ECFMG and it will feel that it has already adequately explored and discovered all of the facts in your case.

It is our advice that you must always find out exactly what evidence or information the organization has against you and you must appear in person and testify under oath at a hearing at which the committee can ask you questions in order to show your honesty and innocence.

As Attorneys Experienced in Such Matters, We Know How to Prepare and Present Cases to Such Hearing Committees and to Successfully Convince Them of Your Position.

Our law firm and our attorneys have had a great deal of experience in dealing with the ECFMG and the USMLE on issues involving grading on the Step examinations, accusations of “irregular behavior,” testing and grading irregularities, and allegations regarding conduct which the organizations contends is “irregular behavior” (including mistakes in completing applications and affidavits). We haven’t represented many medical students and medical graduates in challenges, hearings before the committees, and on appeals.

Although, just as in medicine, in legal matters such as this one, we cannot guarantee any specific outcome or success in a case, we can advise you of our many successful cases. Finding any lawyer in the United States who has a great deal of prior experience with the USMLE or the ECFMG is very difficult. There are very, very few of us. Additionally, once you check out the backgrounds of any attorney whom you are considering, you may find that the particular attorney is not what you expect or would desire to hire. You want to hire attorneys that have a great deal of experience in this area, who know what they are doing, and who will not exaggerate or promise you that which they are not able to deliver.

Experience, Organization, and Knowledge are the Hallmarks of Our Legal Representation of You!

In our case, we tell the truth, we know what the “hot” issues are that are important to the ECFMG he and the USMLE, and we are aggressive advocates of your innocence or your position in the case. We prepare ahead of time and put together a comprehensive, detailed, and well organized presentation, through documents, which we deliver to the committee ahead of time for its consideration at your hearing. We always go to the hearing in Philadelphia, appearing with you in person at the hearing, and making the best presentation possible for you. We are by your side allo the way!

We do our best to prepare you ahead of time, going over potential questions that the committee might ask you and preparing your testimony in advance. We try not to leave anything to chance. If you are subject of a similar type of hearing, or court case, then you really do need experienced legal counsel to help you prepare. You should not try to do this alone.

Severe Consequences of Receiving a Label of “Irregular Behavior.”

There can be some very severe consequences of receiving a label of “irregular behavior,” if you do not adequately defend against such allegations. These can extend all the way from a stamp on the transcript of your Step examination scores stating “irregular behavior,” with a letter attached to it going into great detail about your “irregular behavior,” all the way to a complete ban (forever) from taking any further Step examinations, and everything in between. Even the stamp of “irregular behavior” alone can prevent you from successfully matching with residencies you are seeking or obtaining jobs you desire. This is similar to having a stamp of “Found Guilty of Cheating” on a transcript; the effect may be the same. You may find yourself being excluded from receiving interviews or invitations from residency program for which you apply.

Do not take a chance! Although legal representation may be expensive, you must consider the amount of time and money you have already spent to date to have a medical career and be willing to spend what it takes to continue that career. Don’t jeopardize it by trying to scrimp on legal fees. Remember that you usually get what you pay for.

View Our Other Blogs on Our Experience with the USMLE, ECFMG, and NBME, and Hearings on “Irregular Behavior.”

Our law firm is had a great deal of experience representing students and graduates in disputes with and defending charges of “irregular behavior” against the USMLE, ECFMG and he NBME. To review a few of these please see:
Limits on Number of Attempts and Time for Completion of USMLE Step Exams and
ECFMG Affidavit to Complete? Attending a Caribbean Medical School? Being Investigated for Irregular behavior by the ECFMG or USMLE? You need Legal Advice! Your Residency Matching Might Now Be at Issue, as Well!

Contact a Health Care Attorney Experienced in the Representation of Medical Students, Interns, Residents and Applicants, Fellows and Those Involved in Graduate Medical Education.

The Health Law Firm and its attorneys represent interns, residents, fellows and medical school students in disputes with their medical schools, supervisors, residency programs and in dismissal hearings. We have experience representing such individuals and those in graduate medical education programs in various disputes regarding their academic and clinical performance, allegations of substance abuse, failure to complete integral parts training, alleged false or incomplete statements on applications, allegations of impairment (because of abuse or addiction to drugs or alcohol or because of mental or physical issues), because of discrimination due to race, sex, national origin, sexual orientation and any other matters.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at 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. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620

KeyWords: Graduate medical education (GME) defense attorney, international medical graduate attorney, graduate medical education defense lawyer, lawyer for medical students, medical resident physician attorney, residency program legal dispute, residency program litigation, medical school litigation, legal representation for medical residents, legal dispute with medical school, medical students legal counsel, disruptive physician attorney, impaired medical student legal counsel, impaired resident legal defense attorney, United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) defense lawyer, USMLE defense attorney, National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) defense counsel, Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) defense lawyer, ECFMG defense attorney, legal representation for USMLE investigations, legal representation for NBME investigations, legal representation for irregular behavior, irregular behavior defense attorney, irregular behavior defense counsel, health law attorney, The Health Law Firm reviews, reviews of The Health Law Firm attorneys, Philadelphia attorney for ECFMG hearing, Philadelphia lawyer for NBME hearing, Philadelphia legal counsel for USMLE hearing

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Are You Worried About Health Care Compliance Consequences? Have They Gone Too Far?

By Lance O. Leider, J.D., LL.M., The Health Law Firm

From large hospital systems to solo practitioners, there is no escaping health care compliance in the industry. The concept of compliance can spark different thoughts in different people. For example, some believe it is an unnecessary government intrusion and others believe it’s a way to improve the quality and costs of health care.

No matter your thoughts on health care compliance and government oversight, regulation of the health care industry will never be eliminated. In fact, we expect it to increase as more quality-based requirements are implemented.

We believe compliance and regulations are necessary, but we have to wonder if sometimes these laws go too far.

Those Cute Baby Photos Can Cost You.

As an example of laws going too far, photos of cooing newborn babies used to cover the bulletin boards of doctors’ offices. However, under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), these baby photos are considered protected health information, along the same lines as a medical chart or social security number. A report by The New York Times indicates many offices have removed these types of photos or moved them to private portions of the office. According to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), doctors’ offices are not allowed to post these photos without a specific written authorization from the parent.

To read more on this topic, click here.

Health Care Compliance Overview.

Health care compliance is the ongoing process of meeting or exceeding the legal, ethical and professional standards applicable to a particular health care organization or provider. Health care compliance requires health care organizations and providers to develop effective processes, policies, and procedures to define appropriate conduct, train the organization’s staff, and then monitor the adherence to the processes, polices and procedures.

Health care compliance covers numerous areas including patient care, billing, reimbursement, managed care contracting, OSHA, and HIPAA privacy and security to new a few.

To read a basic overview of health care compliance for organizations and providers, click here.

How to Deal with Compliance Overkill.

The primary purpose of health care compliance is to improve patient care. It is nearly impossible to overstate the complexity of health care compliance. Health care organizations and providers are not only required to comply with Medicare rules and regulations, but they are also required to comply with numerous other federal and state health care laws, rules and regulations.

When dealing with compliance issues, our recommendation is to use your common sense and best judgment. Fear usually leads to absurd situations. With all the fear and propaganda out there it is important to stick to your instincts and put patient care first.

Health care compliance is cumbersome, many may agree too cumbersome. However, it is here to stay.

Do you think health care compliance has gone too far? How do you try to keep up with health care compliance laws and regulations? Are you worried about compliance consequences?

Contact a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Defending HIPAA Complaints and Violations.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals and other health care providers and institutions in investigating and defending alleged HIPAA complaints and violations and in preparing Corrective Action Plans (CAPs).

For more information about HIPAA violations, electronic health records or corrective action plans (CAPs) please visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001.

Sources:

Hartocollis, Anemona. “Baby Pictures at the Doctor’s? Cute, Sure, but Illegal.” The New York Times. (August 9, 2014). From: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/10/nyregion/baby-pictures-at-doctors-cute-sure-but-illegal.html?_r=0

Kirsch, M.D., Michael. “The Consequences of Zero Tolerance: Why HIPAA is Overkill.” Kevin M.D. (January 1, 2014). From: http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2014/01/consequences-tolerance-hipaa-overkill.html

About the Author: Lance O. Leider is an attorney with 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 Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), HIPAA Omnibus Rule, HIPAA compliance, HIPAA lawyer, HIPAA compliance attorney, data security lawyer, protected health information (PHI), Patient privacy, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of Civil Rights (OCR), patient rights, HIPAA compliance audit, privacy defense attorney, health care compliance lawyer, compliance defense attorney, healthcare compliance defense lawyer, health care defense lawyer, HIPAA attorney, HIPAA lawyer, compliance plans, health law firm, The Health Law Firm, health law defense attorney, health care professional defense attorney, legal representation for healthcare professionals, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Contracting 101: Medical Graduates Entering the Workforce, Follow These Tips!

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

This is part one, of a blog series that is intended to provide an introductory review of the basics of contracting for medical graduates entering the work force as residents and fellows, primarily by discussing employment agreements. We will highlight many of the common provisions found in employment contracts, along with many of the mistakes and pitfalls that we see in our day-to-day practice.

By the end of this informational blog, it is our hope that medical graduates will better understand the common language and terms found in employment contracts for health care professionals. The following tips are meant to assist new professionals in recognizing common mistakes made by physicians and health professionals when negotiating contract terms. We hope to help make both employers and employees more knowledgeable about employment contracts so they can avoid potential problem areas and legal entanglements.

Our comments here are meant to provide general rules we have learned from our experience. However, please remember, every situation is different and there are exceptions to every rule. These tips are not intended to constitute legal advice. We recommend contacting an experienced health attorney for questions or concerns regarding specific employment contracts, or to thoroughly review all of the contract terms prior to acceptance.

Tip 1 -“Standard” or “Routine” Physician Employment Agreements Do Not Exist.

No two employment agreements are identical. Each must be reviewed on its own terms. It is important to consult with a healthcare lawyer experienced in negotiating employment contracts and evaluating health care business transactions.

Tip 2 – Negotiation is Always an Option.

Even though an employer may have what appears to be a “standard” employment contract for all physician employees, this can have changes, amendments, schedules, exhibits or terms that are varied from physician to physician or professional to professional. Generally, large employers are less likely to change their form to accommodate the physician than small organizations, but they can and often will. Small employers are often willing to make more changes to their written agreements.

If there are any changes, additions or clarifications you need to make to the contract, then put them in writing, sign them, incorporate them into the contract and attach them to the contract.

Tip 3 – All Oral Agreements Should be Accurately Reflected in the Wording of the Contract.

If it is different or not specified, the language in the contract will govern in any future dispute.

For more information, please read one of my prior blogs on physician and employment contracts here.

In our future blogs, we will continue to provide tips on various issues to watch for in health care employment contracts.

Stay tunes for part two of this blog series.

Contact a Health Care Attorney that is Experienced in the Representation of Medical Students, Interns, Residents and Applicants, Fellows and Those Involved in Graduate Medical Education.

The Health Law Firm and its attorneys represent interns, residents, fellows and medical school students in disputes with their medical schools, supervisors, residency programs and in dismissal hearings. We have experience representing such individuals and those in graduate medical education programs in the following areas: in various disputes regarding their academic and clinical performance, allegations of substance abuse, failure to complete integral parts training, alleged false or incomplete statements on applications, allegations of impairment (because of abuse or addiction to drugs or alcohol or because of mental or physical issues), discrimination due to race, sex, national origin, sexual orientation and any other matters, reviewing and negotiating contracts, preparing contracts, helping employers and employees enforce contracts, advice on setting aside or voiding contracts, litigation of contracts (in start or federal court), business transactions, professional license defense, opinion letters, representation in investigations, fair hearing defense, representation in peer review and clinical privileges hearings, litigation of restrictive covenant (covenants not to compete).

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

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law is an attorney with 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 Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: physician employment agreement, physician employment contract, health professional contracting, negotiating business transactions, physician contracts, contracting tips for medical graduates, contract attorney, business law attorney, business lawyer, contract lawyer, contract litigation, business litigation, employment contract terms, physician agreements, physicians entering the workforce, business transactions, restrictive covenants, noncompetition agreements, covenants not to compete, business ventures, residency and fellowship, medical graduate attorney, fellowship contract lawyer,Graduate medical education (GME) defense attorney, international medical graduate attorney, graduate medical education defense lawyer, lawyer for medical students, medical resident physician attorney, residency program legal dispute, residency program litigation, medical school litigation, legal representation for medical residents, health care professional representation, health care professional defense lawyer, Florida health care lawyer, The Health Law Firm reviews, reviews of The Health Law Firm attorneys

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

ECFMG Affidavit to Complete? Attending a Caribbean Medical School? Being Investigated for Irregular behavior by the ECFMG or USMLE? You need Legal Advice! Your Residency Matching Might Now Be at Issue, as Well!

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

Have you recently unexpectedly received an affidavit from the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG or the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Secretariat? Are you attending or have you graduated from a Caribbean medical School such as the University of Science, Art and Technology (USAT), Faculty of Medicine, in Montserrat, or the Atlantic University School of Medicine (AUSOM) in St. Lucia? Then you are probably, unknowingly, being investigated for misconduct, improprieties in your medical school attendance or other “irregular behavior.” You need to consult with a lawyer and specifically a lawyer who knows and understands the processes followed by the ECFMG and the USMLE.

Large Number of Legal Inquiries Being Received from Current Students and Graduates of USAT.

A year ago, our firm was receiving a large number of calls from students and graduates of the Atlantic University School of Medicine (AUSOM) concerning inquiries and letters they were receiving from the ECFMG and/or the USMLE. However, over the past several months, we have now received an even larger number of inquiries from students and alumni of the University of Arts, Technology and Sciences (USAT) Faculty of Medicine in Montserrat. We have now seen several different affidavits which the ECF image he has sent to students and graduates of USAT which request some very specific and detailed information about their course attendance and experience as students at USAT.

Each inquiry we have received from students and graduates of USAT has disclosed facts and circumstances that are slightly different from the other. From these we have been able to piece together a fairly comprehensive picture of what is probably going on. To summarize, it appears that you SAT is under investigation by the ECF image he for the various irregularities that our clients have disclosed have occurred in the past.

Affidavits from the ECFMG and the USMLE Should Be Taken Very Seriously. They Should Be Answered Truthfully and Must Be Returned Promptly.

The Handbook and Guidelines published by the ECFMG and the USMLE, require that any student or graduate who applies for their services must promptly respond to requests for information. This would include responding to the affidavits (which are really questionnaires to be completed under oath). Otherwise, the applicant can be charged by the ECFMG or the USMLE with “irregular behavior” in accordance with the Handbook and Guidelines that they previously agreed to follow when initially applying.

We hear from our callers, clients, and potential clients that they may have received instructions from their schools or from other sources that they do not have to do send these affidavits back in or respond to these requests for information. We do not believe that this is correct and vice. If confronted by having been sent such an inquiry or affidavit by the USEMLE or ECFMG, you should immediately contact competent, experienced, legal counsel to advise you on the exact issues and facts of the situation. You will only receive advice that takes your own personal interests into consideration from your own personal attorney; you are not likely to receive it from anyone else.

View Our Other Blogs on Our Experience with the USMLE, ECFMG, and NBME, and Hearings on “Irregular Behavior.”

Our law firm is had a great deal of experience representing students and graduates in disputes with and defending charges of “irregular behavior” against the USMLE, ECFMG and he NBME. To review a few of these please see:
What to Do If You Receive an Inquiry From the USMLE, ECFMG, or NBME
GOING TO TAKE THE USMLE STEP EXAMS? BEWARE OF ACTIONS THAT CAN BE CALLED “IRREGULAR BEHAVIOR”-PART 1, and
Accused of Irregular Behavior on the USMLE? Here’s What You Will Do Wrong.

Contact a Health Care Attorney Experienced in the Representation of Medical Students, Interns, Residents and Applicants, Fellows and Those Involved in Graduate Medical Education.

The Health Law Firm and its attorneys represent interns, residents, fellows and medical school students in disputes with their medical schools, supervisors, residency programs and in dismissal hearings. We have experience representing such individuals and those in graduate medical education programs in various disputes regarding their academic and clinical performance, allegations of substance abuse, failure to complete integral parts training, alleged false or incomplete statements on applications, allegations of impairment (because of abuse or addiction to drugs or alcohol or because of mental or physical issues), because of discrimination due to race, sex, national origin, sexual orientation and any other matters.

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at 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. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620

KeyWords: Graduate medical education (GME) defense attorney, international medical graduate attorney, graduate medical education defense lawyer, lawyer for medical students, medical resident physician attorney, residency program legal dispute, residency program litigation, medical school litigation, legal representation for medical residents, legal dispute with medical school, medical students legal counsel, disruptive physician attorney, impaired medical student legal counsel, impaired resident legal defense attorney, United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) defense lawyer, USMLE defense attorney, National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) defense counsel, Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) defense lawyer, ECFMG defense attorney, legal representation for USMLE investigations, legal representation for NBME investigations, legal representation for irregular behavior, irregular behavior defense attorney, irregular behavior defense counsel, health law attorney, The Health Law Firm reviews, reviews of The Health Law Firm attorneys, Philadelphia attorney for ECFMG hearing, Philadelphia lawyer for NBME hearing, Philadelphia legal counsel for USMLE hearing

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Health Care Professionals: Fight Back Against Bad Online Reviews

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

Defamatory attacks against health care professionals have become increasingly prevalent as more and more review sites join the world wide web. This allows patients to post virtually anything they want – good or bad – about a physician or any professional. With more physicians becoming employees of hospital systems or large healthcare institutions, adverse surveys, reports or reviews can affect advancement, bonuses and basic income.

Online Review Websites.

Internet ratings on review sites like Vitals.com and Yelp.com can range from snide comments about the patient’s waiting time in the physician’s office to vicious attacks that can have a serious implications for a physician. In many cases, the review, comment, or rating may be a purposely untrue statement by a disgruntled patient, competitor or former employee. When the comment is posted, search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing, AOL, or MSN may bring up the false statement every time someone searches for that doctor’s name. This can cost doctors both their reputation and their business, especially if they start losing patients because of bad reviews.

Many health professionals are now seeking legal strategies to combat alleged online libel and defamation in order to save their reputation and their practice. However, not all negative online comments or ratings meet the actual definition of “defamation.” Defamation generally is a factual statement that can be proven true or false. For example, if a patient writes that she had a procedure performed by a doctor, this is a statement of fact that can be confirmed or disproved. However, if someone writes about a doctor’s poor attitude during a visit, this statement is usually considered to be an opinion which cannot necessarily be proven true or false.

Additionally, online review sites usually have a set of clear guidelines when posting public reviews. For example, Google has a list of prohibited and restricted content in their terms of use. The most common prohibited and restricted content includes: spam or fake content, impersonation, illegal or sexually explicit content, dangerous and derogatory content and conflict of interest. Click here to view these examples in Google’s terms of use.

If you find any statements about you or your practice that may be considered defamatory or prohibited content, the following are some legal measures you may take to try to stop the inflammatory comments:

1. Identify person making comments.

Attempt to identify the person making the negative remarks. You may find it is a disgruntled former employee or a friend or relative of the patient who does not have any first-hand knowledge. See other tips below on how you might do this. Contact that person directly.

2. Check your office records.

Your own records should be checked. Your notes about office visits or procedures, your appointment schedule or your own billing records may help you identify the patient who wrote the review or comment. If you think you may know who wrote a comment, try to contact the patient directly to discuss his or her concerns and request that the comment be removed. Sometimes you will find that you never treated this person or that the patient has the wrong physician.

3. Consult with an attorney.

Before making any decisions about the contents of a comment, consult with an experienced attorney for guidance. An experienced attorney will be able to determine whether the internet posting is considered an opinion, spam or defamation.

4. Send a letter to the website, website host, owner and internet service provider.

Once the individual responsible for the post has been identified, doctors can contact the patient directly to ask that the post be removed. If the patient refuses, a doctor should request that his or her attorney send a letter warning the poster of potential legal action if the post is not removed from the website. If that doesn’t work, the physician should have his or her attorney send a letter demanding the comments be removed to the website, website host, owner and internet service provider.

5. Contact the website.

If you are unable to determine who may have written something online, or if the person refuses to take the comment down, try contacting the website that the review or comment is posted on. Many websites have policies against spam and defamatory statements. Contact the website to ask about its policy and get the comment removed. However, be very careful about signing up as a participant on the website and, especially, of agreeing to its terms of service (TOS) or terms of use (TOU). See below.

6. Avoid agreeing to the website’s terms.

Avoid the urge to join the website, subscribe to the website or otherwise agree to the website’s policies and procedures. You may be agreeing to a legally enforceable contract that waives your rights to sue for defamation or other course of action. Every website has Terms of Service (TOS) or Terms of Use (TOU), usually with a simple block to check to acknowledge you agree to all of its terms. Do not do this. You may be waiving all of your rights to legally challenge defamatory comments that are published.

7. File a lawsuit.

Filing a lawsuit should be a physician’s last resort in handling defamatory online comments. Legal proceedings can often take years to complete and can draw more negative attention to the physician. However, in many cases the only way for a physician to defend his or her reputation is in court.

Before you can file a lawsuit you must check state laws regarding statute of limitations in which to file defamation suits. If the negative comment falls outside this statute of limitations, you will not be able to sue. You will also need to review state defamation and false light laws to see what are considered appropriate claims. Remember it is difficult to sue someone for an opinion, and many online reviews can be considered and can’t be proven true or false. It is also usually best to sue the individual poster, not the website, as The Communications Decency Act of 1996 protects Internet service providers from liability for third-party comments.

8. Seek a subpoena.

If the website provides no assistance in removing the comment, you and your attorney can seek a subpoena ordering the Internet service provider to give identification data. Generally courts will grant a subpoena during a defamation investigation. Identification information could be an email address, name or location information of the poster.

9. Request a court order.

If all requests for a post to be removed are unsuccessful, doctors can request a court order or an injunction. A doctor must be able to show that the comments are probably false and are causing irreparable harm to their reputation or practice in order for a judge to demand the comments be removed. Usually you will be required to file a petition or complaint (lawsuit) first.

There are also alternative methods for protecting your reputation online. Be proactive and make sure you are putting out positive information about yourself and your practice through your website, social media sites, and blogs. This will help bury negative comments that appear on search-engine results, making it less likely that potential patients will see bad reviews.

Physicians should also distribute surveys to their patients, which provide an instant forum for patients to express their feelings about visits. Such tools as having your own internal office complaint/grievance procedure for patient complaints may help. If patients feel that they are able to provide immediate feedback to a physician, they may be less inclined to share their feelings online.

Remember to be persistent when you are trying to fight negative online reviews! Large corporations such as Google offer the ability to flag certain negative reviews but don’t always remove it. It pays to speak to a person on the phone so that you can explain the reasoning that the review needs to be removed. Don’t give up!

The following court documents pertain to cases involving defamation against physicians:
A copy of the Preliminary Injunction filed in Barry Eppley, MD, v. Lucille Iacovelli, in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division.
A copy of the Notice of Removal filed in Doctor John Doe, Doctor John Doe Incorporated and Jane Doe v. Google Inc., in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Professionals and Providers.

At the Health Law Firm we provide legal services for all health care providers and professionals. This includes physicians, nurses, dentists, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, Durable Medical Equipment suppliers, medical students and interns, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other healthcare provider. We represent facilities, individuals, groups and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers and acquisitions.

The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in both formal and informal administrative hearings and in representing physicians in investigations and at Board of Medicine and Board of Osteopathic Medicine hearings. We represent physicians accused of wrongdoing, in patient complaints and in Department of Health investigations.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.ThehealthLawFirm.com.

KeyWords: representation of health care professionals, health law defense attorney, doctor attorney, nurse attorney, Department of Health defense attorneyDOH investigation representation, quality assurance representation, Medicare investigation lawyer, representation for Medicaidinvestigation, representation for health care professionals, license defense lawyer, licensure representation, representation for license defense, licensure defense attorney, protecting your professional license, The Health Law Firm, Florida health law attorney, The Health Law Firm reviews, reviews of The Health Law Firm attorneys

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

OIG Exclusion: What You Need to Know if You’re on the List

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

Have you ever had disciplinary action against your license as a health care professional? Have you ever been arrested or convicted of a criminal offense? Have you ever been convicted of fraud or patient neglect? If so, then you may have also been terminated or excluded from the federal Medicare Program or your state Medicaid Program.

Many health professionals don’t understand the significant repercussions that an exclusion action by the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) can have on their career and employment. Whether you are a physician, nurse, dentist, psychologist or other health professional, if you allow yourself to be excluded from the Medicare Program, devastating economic results may follow.

Check the List.

To check if you are on the federal government’s List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE), click here.

To see if you are on Florida’s list of individuals and entities who have been terminated from Florida’s Medicaid Program, click here.

Collateral Consequences to OIG Exclusion or Termination.

Termination or exclusion can have many collateral consequences about which most health care providers are not aware. These Include:

– Termination for cause from all state Medicaid Programs.

– Loss of state professional licenses in other states and jurisdictions.

– Loss of hospital, ambulatory surgical center (ASC), and nursing home clinical privileges.

– Removal from the provider panels of health insurers.

– Loss of ability to contract or work for any individual or entity that contracts with the Medicare Program in any capacity (officer agent, shareholder, director, employee or independent contractor, even for non-Medicare products and services such as office supplies, building and construction services, software and systems support, etc.), including physicians, medical groups, hospitals, healthcare systems, ambulatory surgical centers, skilled nursing facilities, health insurance companies, etc.

– Placement on the General Services Administration (GSA) Exclusions List (or “Debarred” List) from government contracting.

– Loss of ability to contract or work for any individual or entity that contracts with the federal government in any capacity (officer agent, shareholder, director, employee or independent contractor, even for such services as construction projects, janitorial contracts, computer equipment and software services, real estate brokers on federally underwritten housing loans, sales of motor vehicles, products and services to the government, etc.

To learn more on the consequences of being excluded, click here.

You’re on the List, Now What?

If you find yourself on a state’s excluded or terminated list or if you find yourself on the federal LEIE, all is not lost. There are ways to become reinstated.

The OIG exclusion list is a complicated regulatory program which requires experience and perseverance to navigate. It is highly recommended that you do not attempt to handle removal without qualified assistance. If your application is denied, even for hyper-technical reasons, you may be barred from reapplying for one full calendar year. Therefore, it is crucial that your application is complete and correct, and you are fully eligible for removal. To read a past blog about reinstatement after OIG removal, click here.

Contact Attorney Experienced in Defending Against Action to Exclude an Individual or Business from the Medicare Program and Assisting in Reinstatement Applications.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm have experience in dealing with the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and defending against action to exclude an individual or business entity from the Medicare Program, in administrative hearings on this type of action, in submitting applications requesting reinstatement to the Medicare Program after exclusion, and removal from the List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE).

To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at 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. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Exclusion list, Office of Inspector General, OIG, OIG exclusion list, OIG reinstatement representation, representation for physicians, representation for physician reimbursement, licensure defense attorney, professional license representation, licensure defense representation, representation for health care professionals, investigations analyst, applying for reinstatement, Application for Reinstatement, Medicare Exclusion attorney, OIG Hearing, Request for Reinstatement, Removal from List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE), Application to OIG, Medicare Reinstatement representation, Medicaid Reinstatement representation, healthcare fraud lawyes, Medicare defense attorney, Medicaid defense lawyer, Florida defense attorney, Florida defense lawyer, The Health Law Firm reviews

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Dentists Smiling as $80 Million Settlement Reached in Dental Supply Price-Fixing Class Action Suit

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

On August 30, 2018, after two years of litigation, a group of dentists tentatively reached an $80 million settlement in a proposed class action accusing the country’s biggest dental supply companies of colluding to fix prices. The three dominant distributors, Henry Schein Inc., Patterson Cos. Inc. and Benco Dental Supply Co. Inc., allegedly artificially inflated prices on crowns, numbing agents, X-ray accessories and other products.

Artificially Inflating Prices.

In 2016, the three distributors were accused of artificially inflating prices on various dental supplies and equipment. Products at issue included supplies such as adhesives, implants, tooth brushes, pins and posts all the way to equipment such as imaging devices and dental chairs. Although there are hundreds of distributors and manufacturers of dental supplies and equipment, the defendants controlled approximately 80% of the market share. Click here to read my prior blog on this case and learn more.

The $80 million settlement comes roughly 30 months after the dentists first launched their lawsuits against the manufacturers. To learn more, click here to view the consolidated class action complaint  and the order in full.

Collusion?

In response to the suit, the three distributors accused the group of dentists of inaccurately portraying isolated actions as a nationwide conspiracy. However, a New York federal judge found reason to believe the distributors colluded to strong-arm lower cost rivals and boycott trade groups that worked with a newer distributor called SourceOne Dental Inc.

Despite reaching the settlement, the distributors deny any wrongdoing even though the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also filed an administrative complaint against them in February 2018. In the complaint, the FTC accused the nation’s three largest dental supply companies of conspiring to refuse to provide discounts to buying groups representing small dental practitioners in violation of antitrust laws. To view the FTC’s press release, click here. Click here to view the FTC’s complaint.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced in Representing Health Care Professionals.

The Health Law Firm has attorneys who practice in the area of antitrust law and trade regulation. We have defended a hospital in federal court against allegations of violations of the antitrust laws, we routinely provide advice and opinion letters on antitrust and trade regulation matters, we have represented plaintiffs in law suits alleging anticompetitive behavior and violations of state and federal antitrust laws, we have given opinions on and been involved in litigation concerning the Lanham Act and the Robinson-Patman Amendments, and we routinely undertake litigation concerning restrictive covenants.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide advice and representation concerning antitrust law, trade regulation, restraint of trade issues, and regarding deceptive and unfair trade practices. We routinely provide advice and analysis of proposed business ventures that include the foregoing. We have represented both plaintiffs and defendants in state court litigation and in federal court litigation in such matters.

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

Sources:

Overley, Jeff. “Dentists Get $80M From Supply Cos. To End Collusion Case.” Law360. (August 30, 2018). Web.

“Dentists Get $80M From Supply Cos. To End Collusion Case.” InfoTech Consulting. (September 5, 2018). Web.

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.

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“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of and a registered service mark of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 2018 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

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