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Telemedicine Company Owners Charged in $56 Million Kickback Scheme

George Indest HeadshotBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
On February 5, 2020, the owners of two telemedicine companies were charged in New Jersey federal court with defrauding Medicare in an alleged $56 million telehealth scheme involving orthotic braces. Some of the fraud alleged to have occurred was through a Florida location. The married co-owners of Advantage Choice Care and Tele Medicare are reported to have used the companies to solicit kickbacks and bribes from patient recruiters, pharmacies, and brace suppliers. The company would then hire providers to order medically unnecessary braces that were billed to Medicare, according to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).

The scheme allegedly took place from March 2017 to April 2019.

Sham Contracts to Hide Kickbacks.

The fraud scheme allegedly was able to evade detection by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) by using sham contracts that labeled the kickbacks as “consultations” and “medical expenditures,” the government said. The illegal payments, some as much as $34,910, were all made through bank accounts that indirectly funneled cash into Advantage Choice Care.

Authorities say the pair and others transferred the brace orders to co-conspirator suppliers to support more than $56 million in false and fraudulent claims to Medicare that were submitted by brace suppliers. According to court documents, Medicare paid these brace suppliers over $28 million for these claims.

The Charges.

The husband and wife were arrested and charged with six counts, according to the indictment. They were charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States and to pay and receive health care kickbacks, one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and wire fraud, three counts of receiving health care kickbacks, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. These charges are standard for most fraud prosecutions in federal court. Click here to view the indictment in full.

The couple owned and operated two telemedicine companies which had locations in Bayonne, New Jersey, Boca Raton, Florida, and Richmond Hill, Georgia. To view the DOJ’s press release on this case, click here.

Click here to read one of my prior blogs to learn more about Telemedicine in Florida.

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 health care provider. We represent facilities, individuals, groups and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers, and acquisitions.

The services we provide include reviewing and negotiating contracts, business transactions, professional license defense, representation in investigations, credential defense, representation in peer review and clinical privileges hearings, Medicare and Medicaid audits, commercial litigation, and administrative hearings. To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 or (970) 416-7456 or visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

“Telemedicine co. owners charged in $56 million Medicare fraud case.” Modern Healthcare. (February 5, 2020). Web.

Stawicki, Kevin. “Telemedicine Execs Charged In $56M Medicare Fraud Scheme.” Law360. (February 5, 2020).

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. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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Telemedicine and Telehealth Authorized by Law in Florida in 2019

George IndestBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law
Among the major events in health law in 2019, Florida passed a comprehensive act approving telemedicine and telehealth.

Telehealth in Florida, Who and What Are Included and Excluded.

Florida’s Telehealth Act became effective on July 1, 2019. It is codified in Section 456.47, Florida Statutes (2019). It authorizes the provision of healthcare services via telecommunication methods. However, it excludes audio-only telephone calls, email, and facsimile transmissions.

Authorized healthcare services under the Florida telehealth law include, but are not limited to, assessment, diagnosis, consultation, treatment, and monitoring of a patient; transfer of medical data; patient and professional health-related education; public health services; and health administration.

The term does not include audio-only telephone calls, e-mail messages, or facsimile transmissions, still prohibiting much of the “Internet” practice of medicine.

The law defines a “telehealth provider” as one who is licensed under Sections 456.47(1) or 456.47(4), Florida Statutes (2019), or Section 456.47(4), Florida Statutes. These include physicians, psychologists, nurses, nurse practitioners, dentists, chiropractors, psychologists, mental health counselors, and social workers, among others.

What Standard of Care Applies?

It must be remembered that under general rules of law, the law of the state where the patient is located, is the law that applies to any situation concerning malpractice or other medical issues. The standard of care for a telehealth provider remains the same as for in-person healthcare providers in the state of Florida under the new law. The new law also specifies that an authorized telehealth provider must practice only within their scope of practice.

Under the new act, a telehealth provider is not required to research a patient’s medical history or perform a medical examination, after a patient evaluation and diagnosis, before providing telehealth services. However, a telehealth provider may not prescribe controlled substances, with certain exceptions indicated in Section 456.47(2)(c), Florida Statutes (2019).

Additionally, a non-physician healthcare provider may practice via telehealth without violating Section 458.327(1)(a), Florida Statutes (2019), or Section 459.013(1)(a), Florida Statutes (2019), as long as that person is acting within the scope of their practice.

Record-keeping Requirements for Telehealth.

Telehealth providers are required to keep medical records of telehealth services they provide the same as required for in-person healthcare services.

Important Provisions Applying to Out-of-State Telehealth Providers.

The Florida law allows out-of-state healthcare practitioners, not licensed in Florida, to provide telehealth services to patients in Florida if the practitioner meets certain registration requirements by the relevant board or department. This seems to be a recognition of the fact that there are many states now that allow telehealth services to be provided to patients within their states by those not licensed by that state.

To legally provide telehealth services to a patient located in Florida, the health professional must:

1. Complete an application prescribed by the appropriate Florida board or the Florida Department of Health.

2. Be licensed in another jurisdiction, with that license being substantially similar to the applicable Florida license.

3. Not have been subject to disciplinary action related to their professional license in the immediate five-year period before application.

4. Designate a registered agent for service of process (note: this is usually a law firm or professional registered agent service).

5. Demonstrate possession of professional liability (malpractice) insurance or financial responsibility, as otherwise provided by Florida law.

An out-of-state licensed telehealth provider must also publish a link on their website to the relevant board’s or department’s website that contains the telehealth provider’s information. This information must include name, occupation, education, out-of-state license number, specialty, board certification, disciplinary actions, medical malpractice coverage, and the name and address of the registered agent to be served with process.

An applicant may not register if he or she is under pending disciplinary action. This would include any sort of investigation by a regulatory authority such as the Florida Department of Health (DOH) or the Colorado Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA).

An out-of-state telehealth provider may not set up an office inside Florida, nor provide in-person healthcare services in Florida, under this statute.

The relevant Florida professional board or Department of Health may take disciplinary action against an out-of-state telehealth registrant for various infractions. Penalties may include suspension or revocation of registration, issuance of a reprimand, or a letter of concern.

Exemptions to Telehealth Provider Registration Requirements.

There are two exemptions to the out-of-state telehealth practitioner registration requirement. Telehealth services may be rendered by an unregistered, licensed out-of-state practitioner:

1. In response to an emergency medical condition whereby the absence of immediate medical attention could result in death or serious bodily harm to the patient, or fetus of a pregnant woman.

2. In consultation with a Florida licensed practitioner who has ultimate decision-making authority over the matter.

To learn more about telehealth in Florida, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Consult Florida Health Lawyer to Assist in Filing an Application, Act as Registered Agent or If You Receive Notice of an Investigation.

The state of Florida has some of the most laws and regulations applying to health professionals, health facilities and healthcare providers. If you are confronted with any need for any legal services related to any of the issues discussed in this blog, contact The Health Law Firm right away.

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 health care provider. We represent facilities, individuals, groups and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers, and acquisitions.

The services we provide include reviewing and negotiating contracts, business transactions, professional license defense, representation in investigations, credential defense, representation in peer review and clinical privileges hearings, Medicare and Medicaid audits, commercial litigation, and administrative hearings. 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. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Registered agent for telehealth provider, telehealth provider investigation defense lawyer attorney, telemedicine representation, Florida telemedicine defense lawyer, telehealth expansion, representation for telehealth investigations, representation for telemedicine investigations, Florida Department of Health (DOH) representation, DOH defense lawyer, representation for DOH investigations, representation for Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) investigations, AHCA defense lawyer, AHCA investigation attorney, health care defense attorney, health care compliance defense lawyer, Florida health care attorney, representation for health care professionals, defense lawyer for health care providers, doctor lawyer, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews

The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of The Health Law Firm, P.A., a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999, and is also a registered service mark.
Copyright © 2019/2020 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved

Review Your Department Of Health Practitioner Profile or it Could Cost You!

Headshot of The Health Law Firm's attorney George F. Indest IIIBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

In 1997, the Florida Legislature passed a statute that requires the Department of Health (DOH) to maintain online practitioner profiles for certain health care professionals. Practitioner profiles are required for medical doctors, osteopathic physicians (DOs), chiropractors (DCs), advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) and podiatric physicians. The statute specified the required information to be maintained, how it was to be reported, and other requirements dealing with compiling and updating the information in the profiles.

To visit the DOH’s website and learn more about these profiles, click here.

What Information Does the Profile Include?

The profile contains required and optional information from the healthcare provider. Required
information includes:

1. education and training, including other health-related degrees, professional and postgraduate training specialty
2. current practice and mailing addresses
3. staff privileges and faculty appointments
4. reported financial responsibility
5. legal actions taken against the practitioner
6. board final disciplinary action taken against the practitioner
7. any liability claims filed against podiatric physicians which exceed $5,000
8. any liability claims filed against M.D.s and osteopathic physicians which exceed
$100,000

Optional information may include committees/memberships, professional or community
service awards, and publications the practitioner has authored.

These profiles are published on the DOH’s website. They are freely accessible by the public and are frequently used by employers, medical staff committees, and insurance panels to verify information provided by applicants.

Be Sure to Check Your Profile for Accuracy!

If you are a licensed profiled health care practitioner, you should review your profile information frequently and report any corrections to the DOH immediately! By law, you are responsible for updating your profile information within 15 days after a change of an occurrence in each section of the profile.

Unfortunately, information on practitioner profiles is not always 100 percent correct. Oftentimes, the information in a profile is outdated or misreported. The majority of the information in a profile is supposed to be entered through the website by the practitioner personally; however, the DOH is free to add information on its own.

It’s important to note that not all of the information on the practitioner profile is verified by the DOH. To view which information is self-reported, as well as reported by the DOH, click here to view the DOH’s profile guide.

Recently, The Health Law Firm had a client whose employment contract was not renewed due to misreported criminal history information on the DOH practitioner profile. Most troubling was the fact that this information appeared on the profile suddenly; it had not been on the practitioner profile in the past. Furthermore, the information was decades old and had been posted in direct violation of a court order sealing the underlying records.

We have also had cases where information was incorrect, where the same information was repeated several times, or where the information on the profile did not meet the basic requirements for reporting.

Fight False Information on Your Practitioner Profile.

The Health Law Firm has been successful in having the DOH remove criminal history information and other incorrect information from a practitioner profile.

It is imperative that you check your practitioner profile regularly to ensure that it is accurate with respect to the information that you provided and that may have been provided by the DOH. If you find that confidential or incorrect information has been posted to your profile, contact an attorney experienced with dealing with these matters immediately. You never know when your employer, a business associate or potential patient will look up your information on your profile.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with the Department of Health Matters and Investigations.

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 (DME) suppliers, medical students and interns, chiropractors, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and any other health care provider

Our attorneys provide legal representation in the Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigations 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.

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 Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

Keywords: Department of Health investigation representation, DOH defense lawyer, DOH investigation, representation for DOH investigations, DOH investigation defense attorney, DOH representation, representation for board licensing complaint, board licensing complaint representation, board licensing complaint lawyer, board representation for healthcare professionals, licensure defense, licensure defense attorney, licensure defense representation, representation for administrative complaint, administrative licensure investigation representation, healthcare license representation, administrative hearing attorney, Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) representation, AHCA attorney, AHCA defense lawyer, nurse attorney, representation for nurses, nurse defense lawyer, healthcare attorney, representation for healthcare professionals, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents, FBI agents, OIG special agents, Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) investigators, representation for physicians, The Health Law Firm reviews, reviews for The Health Law Firm

“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 © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

You Could Face Steep Repercussions From License Discipline or Resignation After Notice of Investigation

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

Do you have a dental, medical, pharmacy or nursing license in several different states? Do you have a license in more than one health care profession? Have you been notified that an investigation has been opened against you? Are you thinking about resigning your professional license or voluntarily relinquishing such a license? Then you must be aware of the following information.

First, you should never voluntarily relinquish or resign your license after you know that an investigation has been opened or that disciplinary action has been taken against you. Such resignation is considered to be a “disciplinary relinquishment” and is treated the same as if your license had been revoked on disciplinary grounds.

Second, this will be reported out to other states, agencies, to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), to any certifying bodies for certifications you have and to other reporting agencies (such as the National Council of State Board of Nursing, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy or the American Board of Internal Medicine). Other states and other professional boards will most likely initiate disciplinary action based upon the first one.

Protect Your Professional License from These Adverse Actions.

The following is a list of some of the adverse actions that you can expect to be taken against you after discipline on your license or after you resign your professional license after receiving notice of investigation:

1. A mandatory report to the National Practitioner Data Base (NPDB) which remains there for 50 years. Note: The Healthcare Integrity and Protection Data Bank or HIPDB recently merged into the NPDB.

2. Must be reported to and included in the Department of Health (DOH) profile that is available to the public online (for those having one), and remains for at least ten years.

3. Any other states or jurisdictions in which the nurse has a license will also initiate an investigation and possible disciplinary action against him or her in that jurisdiction. (Note: I have had two clients who had licenses in seven other states and all, even ones that were inactive or not renewed years ago, initiated action).

4. The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will take action to exclude the provider from the Medicare Program. If this occurs (and most of these offenses require mandatory exclusion) the provider will be placed on the List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE) maintained by the HHS OIG.

a. If this happens, you are prohibited by law from working in any position in any capacity for any individual or business, including hospitals, nursing homes, home health agencies, physicians, medical groups, insurance companies, etc., that contract with or bill Medicare or Medicaid. This means, for example, you are prohibited from working as a janitor in a nursing home that accepts Medicare or Medicaid, even as an independent contractor.

b. If this happens, you are also automatically “debarred” or prohibited from participating in any capacity in any federal contracting, and you are placed on the U.S. General Services Administration’s (GSA) debarment list. This means you are prohibited by law from working in any capacity for any government contractor or anyone who takes government funding. This applies, for example, to prevent you from being a real estate agent involved in selling property financed by a government-backed loan, prohibited from working for an electrical company that bids on contracts for government housing projects, working as a school teacher in a public school, etc.

c. If this happens, your state Medicaid Program is required to terminate you “for cause” from the state Medicaid Program. In many states, this is also grounds for revocation of your license.

5. Any profile or reporting system maintained by a national organization or federation (e.g., NURSYS profile maintained by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, American Medical Association physician profile, or the Federation of State Board of Physical Therapy profile) will include the adverse action in it, generally available to the public.

6. If you are a nurse practitioner or other professional with clinical privileges at a hospital, nursing home, HMO or clinic, action will be taken to revoke or suspend the clinical privileges and staff members if you have such. This may be in a hospital, ambulatory surgical center, skilled nursing facility, staff model HMO or clinic. This will usually be for physicians, physician assistants (PAs), advanced registered nurse practitioners (ARNPs), certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs), nurse midwives or certified nurse anesthetists (CNAs), podiatrists, clinical psychologist or clinical pharmacists.

7. Third party payors (health insurance companies, HMOs, etc.) will terminate the professional’s contract or panel membership with that organization.

8. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will act to revoke the professional’s DEA registration if he or she has one.

9. Many employers will not hire you or will terminate your employment if they discover your license has been disciplined in another state.

So, What Should You Do?

– Don’t take the easy way out by immediately relinquishing your license if you are notified you are under investigation.

– Don’t hide your head in the sand by thinking the case will just go away on its own.

– Don’t take the easy way out. If you are innocent of the charges, request a formal hearing and contest the charges; defend yourself.

– Do not request an informal hearing or a settlement agreement in which you admit the facts alleged against you are all true. If you do this, you are “pleading guilty.”

– Do immediately seek the advice of an attorney who has experience in such professional licensing matters and administrative hearings. They are out there, but you may have to search for one. Do this as soon as you get notice of any investigation and especially before you have talked to or made any statement (including a written one) to any investigator.

– Do purchase professional liability insurance that includes legal defense coverage for any professional license investigation against you, whether it is related to a malpractice claim or not. This insurance is cheap and will provide needed legal assistance at the time when you may be out of a job and not have money to hire an attorney. Beware of the insurance policy that only covers professional license defense if it is related to a malpractice claim.

Professional Liability Insurance.

We strongly encourage all licensed health professionals and facilities to purchase their own, independent insurance coverage. Make sure it covers professional license defense under all circumstances. Make sure you have enough coverage to actually get you through a hearing. $25,000 coverage for just professional licensure defense is the absolute minimum you should purchase; $50,000 may be adequate but $75,000 or $100,000 may be what you really need in such a situation. For a few dollars more (and I do mean only a few) you can usually purchase the higher limits.

Also, I will repeat, make sure it covers your legal defense in an administrative disciplinary proceeding against your license, even if there is no malpractice claim filed against you or likely to be filed against you.

We also recommend that you purchase coverage through an insurance company that allows you to select your own attorney and does not make you use one that the insurance company picks for you.

Companies we have encountered in the past who provide an inexpensive top quality insurance product for professional license defense costs include: CPH & Associates Insurance, Nurses Service Organization (NSO) Insurance, Healthcare Providers Organization (HPSO) Insurance and Lloyd’s of London Insurance.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents physicians, nurses, pharmacists, pharmacies, dentists, mental health counselors, massage therapists and other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Department of Health (DOH) and other law enforcement agencies. Its attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.

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: Department of Health investigation representation, DOH defense lawyer, DOH investigation, representation for DOH investigations, DOH investigation defense attorney, DOH representation, representation for board licensing complaint, board licensing complaint representation, board licensing complaint lawyer, board representation for healthcare professionals, licensure defense, licensure defense attorney, licensure defense representation, representation for administrative complaint, administrative licensure investigation representation, administrative hearing attorney, Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) representation, AHCA attorney, AHCA defense lawyer, nurse attorney, representation for nurses, nurse defense lawyer, healthcare attorney, representation for healthcare professionals, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents, FBI agents, OIG special agents, Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) investigators, representation for physicians, The Health Law Firm reviews, reviews for The Health Law Firm

“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 © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Although the Law Stacks the Deck Against You, Leaving a Foreign Body in a Patient Doesn’t Always Mean Negligence or Discipline

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

Leaving a foreign object (sometimes referred to as a “retained foreign body” or “RFB”) in a patient, such as a sponge, clamp, forceps, surgical needle, guide wire, part of a surgical instrument or other paraphernalia commonly used in surgical, examination, or other diagnostic procedures, does not necessarily mean that the physician has committed an act of negligence or that the physician will be disciplined by the Board of Medicine (BOM) or Department of Health (DOH). There are many defenses in such a case and many incidents which do not constitute negligence. However, as a preliminary matter, the law does seem to stack the deck against the physician in such cases.

Medical Negligence Statutes.

Section 766.102(3)(b), Florida Statutes (previously Section 768.45, Florida Statutes),
states:

The existence of a medical injury does not create any inference or presumption of negligence against a health care provider, and the claimant must maintain the burden of proving that an injury was proximately caused by a breach of the prevailing professional standard of care by the health care provider. . . . However, the discovery of the presence of a foreign body, such as a sponge, clamp, forceps, surgical needle, or other paraphernalia commonly used in surgical, examination, or diagnostic procedures, shall be prima facie evidence of negligence on the part of the health care provider.

Grounds for Disciplinary Action Against a License.

Chapter 456, Florida Statutes, applies to all health professionals who are licensed by the Florida Department of Health (DOH). Section 456.072(1), Florida Statutes, which provides the grounds for possible discipline of any licensed health professional contains a subsection (cc), which provides the following as a basis for disciplinary action:

Leaving a foreign body in a patient, such as a sponge, clamp, forceps, surgical needle, or other paraphernalia commonly used in surgical, examination, or other diagnostic procedures. For the purposes of this paragraph, it shall be legally presumed that retention of a foreign body is not in the best interest of the patient and is not within the standard of care of the profession, regardless of the intent of the professional.

Applicable to Others than Just Surgeons and Physicians.

We typically envision objects such as clamps or lap pads (“sponges”) being left in a patient after surgery. Note, however, these provisions of the law could apply equally to a nurse practitioner’s leaving a broken needle in a patient or a dentist’s leaving a burr or broken probe in a patient.

Res lpsa Loquitur.

Many surgeons and other physicians who are charged with such an allegation just give up, do not defend themselves, and agree to accept punishment from their professional board. The statutes quoted above are, basically, a restatement of the common law rule known as “res ipsa loquitur in medical malpractice cases.

The term “medical injury” in the statute refers to an injury sustained as a direct result of medical treatment or diagnosis, and does not encompass injuries totally unrelated thereto. Thus, when a plaintiff establishes that the injury is outside the scope of medical treatment or diagnosis, and the facts and circumstances attendant to the injury are such that, in light of past experience, negligence is the probable cause and the defendant is the probable actor, the doctrine of res ipsa loquitur is applicable.

In Florida, there is a Florida law that is set forth within Chapter 456, Florida Statutes. Chapter 456 of Florida Statutes applies to all health professionals who are licensed by the Florida Department of Health (DOH).

Many surgeons and other physicians who are charged with such an allegation just give up, do not defend themselves, and agree to accept punishment from their professional board.

Florida Cases on Retained Foreign Objects.

Archer v. Maddux, 645 So. 2d 544 (Fla. 1st DCA 1994) a surgeon left a tube in a patient after surgery by accident. The trial court dismissed the case because there was no affidavit from a medical expert corroborating that medical negligence had occurred that had been filed before the running of the statute of limitations. The Court of Appeal upheld the dismissal of the case.

DeAlmeida v. Graham, 524 So. 2d 666 (Fla. 4th DCA 1987), a surgeon left a Kelly clamp inside of a patient.

Moreover, the provision of Fla. Stat. ch. 766.102(4) that discovery of a “foreign body” such as surgical paraphernalia is prima facie evidence of negligence, is clearly inapplicable in a case where the mesh was intentionally placed in patient’s body as part of her treatment, and like screws, plates, pacemakers, and/or artificial joints was intended to permanently remain in her body. (Kenyon v. Miller, 756 So. 2d 133 (Fla. 3d DCA 2000)

Smith v. Zeagler, 116 Fla. 628, 157 So. 328 (1934)
It is negligence per se for a surgeon to leave a sponge in an abdominal incision made in his patient in the course of his performance of a surgical operation upon such patient. The burden of showing due care is upon a surgeon who leaves a sponge enclosed in a wound after the performance of an operation, and he cannot relieve himself from liability unless the sponge was so concealed that reasonable care on his part would not have disclosed it, and conditions were such that, in his professional judgment, a special exploration for the sponge would have endangered the safety of the patient. Where a patient’s condition is critical and the paramount requirement is complete the operation in the shortest possible time, the failure to remove a sponge may be an accidental and excusable ship or inadvertence that is not actionable negligence, depending upon the circumstances of the case, the burden being on the physician to show to the satisfaction of the jury that the particular act was not blame-worthy because of the supervening necessity to complete the operation without delay.

The authorities are legion to the effect that it is negligence [***3] per se for a surgeon to leave a sponge in an abdominal incision made in his patient in the course of his performance of a surgical operation upon such patient. Ruth v. Johnson, 172 Fed. 191; Reeves v. Lutz, 179 Mo. App. 61, 162 S.W. Rep. 280; Rayburn v. Day, 126 Oregon 135, 268 Pac. Rep. 1002; Wynne
v. Harvey, 96 Wash. 379, 165 Pac. Rep. 67; Harris v. Fall, 177 Fed. 79, 27 L.R.A (N.S.) 1174; Moore v. Ivey (Texas Civ. App.), 264 S.W. Rep. 283; 21 R.C.L. 388.

The burden of showing due care is upon a surgeon who leaves a sponge enclosed in a wound after the performance of an operation, and he cannot relieve himself from liability unless the sponge was so concealed that reasonable care on his part would not have disclosed it, and conditions were such that, in his professional judgment, a special exploration [*631] for the sponge would have endangered the safety of the patient. Davis v. Kerr, 239 Pa. 351, 86 Atl. Rep. 1007, 46 L.R.A. (N.S.) 611.


Adverse Consequences of Accepting Discipline in a RFB Case.

Many health professionals agree to accept punishment from their professional board without realizing the harsh consequences. Any disciplinary action will be reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB). If you are reported to the NPDB or another health care data base, you could have issues obtaining hospital privileges, state licenses, you may be excluded from the Medicare and Medicaid Programs, and it could also affect your ability to work in the health care field. Additionally, similar actions will be taken against any licenses you have in other states.

Shared Responsibility Between Surgeon and Hospital Staff.

Most hospitals have internal policies and procedures which make it a shared responsibility between the surgeon and the hospital’s staff (especially surgical technicians and operating room nurses) to safeguard against leaving foreign objects in patients.

The Health Law Firm has successfully defended physicians and other licensed health care professionals in administrative investigations and patients complaints relating to retained foreign bodies.

For more information on how we can help you in situations such as this, visit our Areas of Practice page on our website.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents pharmacists, pharmacies, physicians, nurses and other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Department of Health (DOH) and other law enforcement agencies. Its attorneys include those who are board certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law as well as licensed health professionals who are also attorneys.

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: Representation for licensed healthcare professionals, National Practitioner Data Bank, NPDB defense lawyer, NPDB representation, Department of Health investigation representation, DOH defense lawyer, DOH investigation, representation for DOH investigations, DOH investigation defense attorney, DOH representation, representation for board licensing complaint, board licensing complaint representation, board licensing complaint lawyer, board representation for healthcare professionals, licensure defense, licensure defense attorney, licensure defense representation, representation for administrative complaint, administrative licensure investigation representation, administrative hearing attorney, Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) representation, AHCA attorney, AHCA defense lawyer, nurse attorney, representation for nurses, nurse defense lawyer, healthcare attorney, representation for healthcare professionals, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents, FBI agents, OIG special agents, Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) investigators, representation for physicians, The Health Law Firm reviews, reviews for The Health Law Firm

“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 © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Review Your Florida DOH Practitioner Profile or it Could Cost You!

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

In 1997, the Florida Legislature passed a statute that requires the Department of Health (DOH) maintain online practitioner profiles for certain health care professionals. Practitioner profiles are required for medical doctors, osteopathic physicians (DOs), chiropractors (DCs), advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) and podiatric physicians. The statute specified the required information to be maintained, how it was to be reported, and other requirements dealing with compiling and updating the information in the profiles.

To visit the DOH’s website and learn more about these profiles, click here.

What Information Does the Practitioner Profile Include?

The profile contains required and optional information from the healthcare provider. Required
information includes:

1. education and training, including other health-related degrees, professional and post graduate training specialty
2. current practice and mailing addresses
3. staff privileges and faculty appointments
4. reported financial responsibility
5. legal actions taken against the practitioner
6. board final disciplinary action taken against the practitioner
7. any liability claims filed against podiatric physicians which exceed $5,000
8. any liability claims filed against M.D.s and osteopathic physicians which exceed
$100,000

Optional information may include committees/memberships, professional or community
service awards, and publications the practitioner has authored.

These profiles are published on the DOH’s website. They are freely accessible by the public and are frequently used by employers, medical staff committees, and insurance panels to verify information provided by applicants.

Be Sure to Check Your Own Profile for Accuracy.

If you are a licenced profiled health care practitioner, you should review your profile information frequently and report any corrections to the DOH immediately! By law, you are responsible for updating your profile information within 15 days after a change of an occurrence in each section of the profile.

Unfortunately, information on practitioner profiles is not always 100 percent correct. Oftentimes, the information in a profile is outdated or misreported. The majority of the information in a profile is supposed to be entered through the website by the practitioner personally; however, the DOH is free to add information on its own.

It’s important to note that not all of the information on the practitioner profile is verified by the DOH. To view which information is self-reported, as well as reported by the DOH, click here to view the DOH’s profile guide.

Recently, The Health Law Firm had a client whose employment contract was not renewed due to misreported criminal history information on the DOH practitioner profile. Most troubling was the fact that this information appeared on the profile suddenly; it had not been on the practitioner profile in the past. Furthermore, the information was decades old and had been posted in direct violation of a court order sealing the underlying records.

We have also had cases where information was incorrect, where the same information was repeated several times, or where the information on the profile did not meet basic requirements for reporting.

Fight Misreported Information on Your Practitioner Profile.

The Health Law Firm has been successful in having the DOH remove criminal history information and other incorrect information from a practitioner profile.

It is imperative that you check your practitioner profile regularly to ensure that it is accurate with respect to the information that you provided and that may have been provided by the DOH. If you find that confidential or incorrect information has been posted to your profile, contact an attorney experienced with dealing with these matters immediately. You never know when your employer, a business associate or potential patient will look up your information on your profile.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Department of Health Matters and Investigations.

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 (DME) suppliers, medical students and interns, chiropractors, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes and any other health care provider

Our attorneys provide legal representation in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigations 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.

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: Department of Health investigation representation, DOH defense lawyer, DOH investigation, representation for DOH investigations, DOH investigation defense attorney, DOH representation, representation for board licensing complaint, board licensing complaint representation, board licensing complaint lawyer, board representation for healthcare professionals, licensure defense, licensure defense attorney, licensure defense representation, representation for administrative complaint, administrative licensure investigation representation, healthcare license representation, administrative hearing attorney, Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) representation, AHCA attorney, AHCA defense lawyer, nurse attorney, representation for nurses, nurse defense lawyer, healthcare attorney, representation for healthcare professionals, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents, FBI agents, OIG special agents, Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) investigators, representation for physicians, The Health Law Firm reviews, reviews for The Health Law Firm

“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 © 2019 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.