DOH Releases Quarterly Report Covering Through March 2021

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

The Florida Department of Health’s Quarterly Performance Report (QPR) for the Third Quarter of Fiscal Year 2020-2021, was recently released. It provides information and statistics on actions involving licensed health professionals through March 2021.

Scope of the Florida DOH’s Control.

First, note that Florida’s Department of Health regulates 22 health care practitioner boards and four health professional councils. This makes it one of the largest such organizations in the country. Second, this also means that the practice of health care in Florida is one of the most heavily regulated anywhere in the U.S., with each professional board, as well as the Department of Health, having specific Florida statutes governing their professions, as well as the different boards each enacting different sets of administrative rules regulating those professions.

The Quarterly Performance Report contains financial and statistical information concerning licensed health professionals.

Key Emphasis on Unlicensed Practice of Health Care Professions.

The key emphasis of this report is the Department of Health’s ongoing efforts to reduce and eliminate the unlicensed practice (UP) of health care professions in the state. This is often referred to generically as the “unlicensed practice of medicine,” but it applies to any health profession for which a license in Florida is required, for example, massage therapy.

A large Number of Health Care Professionals in Florida.

The Report points out that the Department of Health issued 29,651 professional licenses to new applicants just in the Third Quarter of the fiscal year, from January 1, 2021, through March 31, 2021.

The Medical Quality Assurance (MQA) division of the Department of Health issued 102 cease and desist orders to unlicensed individuals whose unregulated and illegal activities were reported to it. It referred 98 complaints to law enforcement agencies for potential criminal violations.

The unlicensed practice of a health profession in Florida is a felony.

It would be interesting to imagine how many additional applicants there might have been for licensed and how many additional complaints and prosecutions for unlicensed practice there might have been if the COVID-19 pandemic hadn’t been in full bloom. The QPR shows overall enforcement support down for the Fiscal Year 2020-2021, undoubtedly because of this.


Which Professions Have the Most Unlicensed Violations?

Although the QPR does not discuss this, from my own personal experience, the ere are three top runners: massage therapy, nursing, and dentistry; note, however, that this is my opinion, only.

It seems to me that there are many cases of mistaken unlicensed practice brought against massage therapists because of mistakes in identity by investigators. We have experienced cases where investigators arrest several different individuals of foreign origin who happen to be present at a massage establishment and accuse them of practicing there without a license when that person was only there visiting a friend or relative and did not touch any client. Often the visitor and even the licensed professionals there will speak little or no English, therefore being unable to clear up any confusion.

Dentistry is another profession where there is a great deal of unlicensed practice. Often this arises when an individual was a dentist in a foreign county and relocates to the U.S., but is unable to obtain a license. They may set up shop in a home or garage and hold themselves out to a certain group speaking the same foreign language, as able to provide skilled dental services. To me, the number of unlicensed practice cases I have encountered in this profession is largely due to the absence of qualified licensed dentists providing care in our communities, especially to the indigent and immigrant communities.

Charges of unlicensed practice of nursing often arise because of nurses who may have been trained abroad failing to make sure that everyone they work with refers to them as “medical assistants” or whatever other role they are filling. It is very common in doctors’ offices and medical practices to refer to anyone who assists the doctor in any way as “the nurse.” One must be careful if one is not a licensed nurse to correct this mistitling whenever it occurs. We have had multiple cases of a doctor’s competitor or a disgruntled patient filing a complaint that the doctor’s medical assistant was holding himself out to be a nurse when they were not.

To Read the entire DOH Third Quarterly Performance Report for 2020-2021, click here:

http://www.floridahealth.gov/licensing-and-regulation/reports-and-publications/_documents/qpr3-2021.pdf

Remember the Mission of the Florida Department of Health; It is Not to Help YOU.

The QPR emphasizes the same thing you will hear at every professional board meeting if you attend it. That is, the mission of the Florida Department of Health is to protect, promote, and improve the health of all people in Florida and to protect the public. It is not to advocate for or help any individual licensed health professional.

That is one of the reasons I continually tell licensed health professionals that if you want advice on what to do or how to do it legally, don’t call and ask the Department of Health.

First, there is no individual who is authorized to give you advice on what to do or not to do on behalf of any profession, board, or council. Second, there is no individual who is authorized to make decisions on behalf of any professional board or council. A professional board speaks when it meets, discusses an issue, and votes on that issue. That is how decisions are made; not by what one employee may think.

You may send all of your complaints and other hate mail to me at one of the addresses given below.

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 Toll-Free (888) 331-6620 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 © 2021 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

9th Circuit Says Former Federal Nurse Can Proceed With Medical Malpractice Suit Against VA Hospital

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

On September 29, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled that a former federal employee can sue the United States under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA). The suit alleges medical negligence that occurred during psychiatric treatment for a non-workplace-related injury.

As a result, the three-judge panel of the appeals court said that U.S. Navy veteran and VA nurse S.H.s’ lawsuit against a Seattle VA hospital can proceed. (Please note: we are not providing the nurse’s name out of respect for her privacy.)

In 2019, the district court dismissed S.H.’s federal tort lawsuit because the alleged malpractice occurred when doctors were treating an injury she said she sustained at her workplace. The district court reasoned that all existing or exacerbated injuries stemming from a federal workplace injury must be dealt with through the Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA), even malpractice claims.

Click here to view the district court’s order for the motion to dismiss in full.


Background Details.

The plaintiff in the suit is a veteran of the U.S. Navy who suffered a mental breakdown at work in October 2011. She sought follow-up psychiatric care at a VA hospital, where she allegedly received negligent treatment. At the time the treatment was sought, she was an employee of the federal government. She claimed years of workplace bullying and harassment by her supervisor caused her mental breakdown. She sued in 2016.

The FTCA authorizes plaintiffs to sue the U.S. for “personal injury or death caused by the negligent or wrongful act or omission of any employee of the Government while acting within the scope of his office or employment, under circumstances where the United States, if a private person, would be liable to the claimant in accordance with the law of the place where the act or omission occurred.” 28 U.S.C. § 1346(b)(1). Any individual employee of the government acting within the course and scope of her job duties is immune from liability; the United States is substituted for that person in the suit.

The Big Question: Does the FTCA Authorize Suit by a Plaintiff in This Set of Circumstances?

Two factors complicate the answer in this case. First, when the plaintiff sought treatment, she was an employee of the federal government, working as a registered nurse at the VA hospital. Second, she claimed that her mental breakdown, the event that prompted her to seek medical care, was caused by workplace bullying and harassment at the hands of her supervisor. Hence, this would qualify as a work-related injury.

These facts bring into play another federal statute: the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act. FECA establishes a workers’ compensation blueprint that covers most federal employees. It is similar to state workers’ compensation laws.

When an employee sustains an injury covered by FECA, the remedy is to seek compensation under the act; they may not sue for damages under any other provision of law, including the FTCA. Therefore, had the plaintiff sued the U.S. under the FTCA to recover damages for workplace bullying and harassment, the district court would have been required to dismiss the action as barred by FECA.

In this case, however, the plaintiff is not suing for the injuries caused by workplace bullying and harassment. Instead, she is seeking to recover damages for the alleged medical malpractice by the individual doctors treating her.

Based on these facts, the appellate court reversed the district court’s judgment against the plaintiff in her Federal Tort Claims Act action. It held that the district court erred in dismissing the action on the grounds that it was barred by the FECA.

To view the ninth circuit court’s opinion in full, click here.

Consult a Health Law Attorney Who Is Familiar with Army, Navy, and Air Force Health Care Professionals and Their Problems.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm have represented federal physicians, nurses, dentists, and other health professionals in the Army, Navy, and Air Force, active duty and retired, as well as physicians, nurses, and other health professionals working for the Veterans Administration (VA) in the U.S. and around the world. They represent physicians and other health professionals with the Indian Health Service (IHS) and the Public Health Service (PHS). Representation has included disciplinary action, investigations, peer review investigations, clinical privileges actions, fair hearings, National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) actions, and appeals.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or toll-free (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Capriel, Jonathan. “9th Circ. Revives Psychiatric Med Mal Suit Against VA Hospital.” Law360. (September 29, 2021). Web.

Pazanowski, Mary Ann. “Former Federal Nurse Gets New Shot at Injury Suit Against US.” Bloomberg Law. (September 29, 2021). 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. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

“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 © 2021 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

By |2024-03-24T20:02:06-04:00March 26, 2024|Categories: Nursing Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |Comments Off on 9th Circuit Says Former Federal Nurse Can Proceed With Medical Malpractice Suit Against VA Hospital

Department of Health Quarterly Report Released Covering Through March 2021

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

The Florida Department of Health’s Quarterly Performance Report (QPR) for the Third Quarter of Fiscal Year 2020-2021, was recently released. It provides information and statistics on actions involving licensed health professionals through March 2021.

Scope of the Florida Department of Health’s Control.

First, note that Florida’s Department of Health regulates 22 health care practitioner boards and four health professional councils. This makes it one of the largest such organizations in the country. Second, this also means that the practice of health care in Florida is one of the most heavily regulated anywhere in the U.S., with each professional board, as well as the Department of Health, having specific Florida statutes governing their professions, as well as the different boards each enacting different sets of administrative rules regulating those professions.

The Quarterly Performance Report contains financial and statistical information concerning licensed health professionals.

Key Emphasis on Unlicensed Practice of Health Care Professions.

The key emphasis of this report is the Department of Health’s ongoing efforts to reduce and eliminate the unlicensed practice (UP) of health care professions in the state. This is often referred to generically as the “unlicensed practice of medicine,” but it applies to any health profession for which a license in Florida is required, for example, massage therapy.

Large Number of Health Care Professionals in Florida.

The Report points out that the Department of Health issued 29,651 professional licenses to new applicants just in the Third Quarter of the fiscal year, from January 1, 2021, through March 31, 2021.

The Medical Quality Assurance (MQA) division of the Department of Health issued 102 cease and desist orders to unlicensed individuals whose unregulated and illegal activities were reported to it. It referred 98 complaints to law enforcement agencies for potential criminal violations.

The unlicensed practice of a health profession in Florida is a felony.

It would be interesting to imagine how many additional applicants there might have been for licensed and how many additional complaints and prosecutions for unlicensed practice there might have been if the COVID-19 pandemic hadn’t been in full bloom. The QPR shows overall enforcement support down for the Fiscal Year 2020-2021, undoubtedly because of this.

Which Professions Have Most Unlicensed Violations?

Although the QPR does not discuss this, from my own personal experience, the ere are three top runners: massage therapy, nursing, and dentistry; note, however, that this is my opinion, only.

It seems to me that there are many cases of mistaken unlicensed practice brought against massage therapists because of mistakes in identity by investigators. We have experienced cases where investigators arrest several different individuals of foreign origin who happen to be present at a massage establishment and accuse them of practicing there without a license when that person was only there visiting a friend or relative and did not touch any client. Often the visitor and even the licensed professionals there will speak little or no English, therefore being unable to clear up any confusion.

Dentistry is another profession where there is a great deal of unlicensed practice. Often this arises when an individual was a dentist in a foreign county and relocates to the U.S., but is unable to obtain a license. They may set up shop in a home or garage and hold themselves out to a certain group speaking the same foreign language, as able to provide skilled dental services. To me, the number of unlicensed practice cases I have encountered in this profession is largely due to the absence of qualified licensed dentists providing care in our communities, especially to the indigent and immigrant communities.

Charges of unlicensed practice of nursing often arise because of nurses who may have been trained abroad failing to make sure that everyone they work with refers to them as “medical assistants” or whatever other role they are filling. It is very common in doctors’ offices and medical practices to refer to anyone who assists the doctor in any way as “the nurse.” One must be careful if one is not a licensed nurse to correct this mistitling whenever it occurs. We have had multiple cases of a doctor’s competitor or a disgruntled patient filing a complaint that the doctor’s medical assistant was holding himself out to be a nurse when they were not.

To Read the entire DOH Third Quarterly Performance Report for 2020-2021, click here:

http://www.floridahealth.gov/licensing-and-regulation/reports-and-publications/_documents/qpr3-2021.pdf

Remember the Mission of the Florida Department of Health; It is Not to Help YOU.

The QPR emphasizes the same thing you will hear at every professional board meeting if you attend it. That is, the mission of the Florida Department of Health is to protect, promote, and improve the health of all people in Florida and to protect the public. It is not to advocate for or help any individual licensed health professional.

That is one of the reasons I continually tell licensed health professionals that if you want advice on what to do or how to do it legally, don’t call and ask the Department of Health.

First, there is no individual who is authorized to give you advice on what to do or not to do on behalf of any profession, board, or council. Second, there is no individual who is authorized to make decisions on behalf of any professional board or council. A professional board speaks when it meets, discusses an issue, and votes on that issue. That is how decisions are made; not by what one employee may think.

You may send all of your complaints and other hate mail to me at one of the addresses given below.

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 Toll-Free (888) 331-6620 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 © 2021 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

New Jersey Appeals Court Says Plaintiffs Don’t Need Affidavit to Sue LPN in Medical Malpractice Cases

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

In a precedent-setting case, on November 9, 2022, for the first time, a New Jersey appeals court ruled that plaintiffs in medical malpractice cases do not need an affidavit of merit before filing a claim against a licensed practical nurse (LPN). In many states, Florida included, licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and registered nurses (RNs) are included in coverage by the state’s medical malpractice pre-suit screening act. This requires a plaintiff to conduct a pre-suit screening and obtain an affidavit of expert opinion from a similar expert witness that states that the nurse has committed malpractice that harmed the patient. without such an affidavit, the suit is not permitted.

No distinction is usually made between the rights of a licensed practical nurse and a registered nurse. After all, they both are required to have licenses from the state.

In this case, the Superior Court of New Jersey,  Appellate Division, said that an LPN is not included in the “licensed person” definition under the state’s affidavit of merit statute. Additionally, the court’s opinion stated that an LPN could not use the lack of such an affidavit to dodge a medical malpractice suit. In this case, the malpractice suit was brought by a widower who says his wife died due to bad advice given by the LPN about how to treat his wife’s pain.

The Details of the Lawsuit.

The plaintiff claimed that the defendant (an LPN) responded to his complaints about his wife being in pain and unable to eat following her colon surgery by blaming the issue on “post-operative gas. “After ignoring numerous messages he left regarding her condition, the LPN allegedly told the husband (plaintiff) to give his wife, Pepto Bismol. The following day, his wife died, according to the lawsuit.

In July 2020, the plaintiff filed a medical malpractice claim as his wife’s estate administrator. The lawsuit originally named as defendants the doctor, Virtua Surgical Group, and an unknown nurse. Following discovery in the case, the plaintiff dismissed the claims against the other defendants and named only the LPN as a defendant. According to the appellate opinion, he alleged that the defendant was negligent in providing medical advice and failing to consult with her doctor.

You can view the court’s opinion in full here on our website.

Is a Licensed Practical Nurse a “Licensed Person” Covered by the Statute?

In New Jersey professional negligence cases, plaintiffs must file an “affidavit of merit,” or AOM, signed by a licensed medical professional with training or credentials similar to those of the professional to be sued. This comes from a tort reform law passed by the state government in 1995. The statute was originally designed to provide a balance between reducing frivolous lawsuits and permitting injured plaintiffs recovery for meritorious claims. It is similar to requirements that exist in many states.

According to the appellate court’s opinion, a plaintiff claiming “malpractice or negligence by a licensed person” must file an “affidavit of an appropriate licensed person” who can attest that there is a “reasonable probability” that defendant’s conduct “fell outside acceptable professional or occupational standards or treatment practices.” This is required before an actual suit is allowed.

The defendant argued that since the nursing portion of the statute defines “the practice of nursing” for “a registered professional nurse,” the Legislature intended for licensed practical nurses to be included. However, the appeals court held that the tort reform package would not protect her from the lawsuit because she did not fall within the definition in the law. She was not a registered professional nurse. Instead, she was a different type of nurse.

In his written opinion for the court, New Jersey Superior Court Judge Robert J. Gilson considered whether a licensed practical nurse is a “licensed person” covered under the AOM statute. “The AOM statute expressly uses the term ‘a registered professional nurse.’ Yet, nowhere in that definition of a registered professional nurse is there a reference to a licensed practical nurse,” he added.

Gilson stated in the opinion that the New Jersey Legislature was aware that it had separately defined the two different types of nurses. Therefore, the statute did not apply to or protect the LPN, and the plaintiff was allowed to pursue claims without an AOM. Nevertheless, the court said, the plaintiff must still prove the defendant’s negligence to succeed.

Click here to view the opinion in full.

Click here to read one of our related blogs about legal issues LPNs often face.

The New Jersey Case is Probably Not a Precedent for Most States.

Usually, the test for whether or not malpractice or professional negligence has been committed for legal purposes is whether or not the individual is a member of a learned profession. This is usually indicated by the requirement of a professional license to practice that profession. Using this definition, both a licensed practical nurse and a licensed registered nurse are considered professionals, and their “professional negligence” is considered malpractice covered by medical (nursing) malpractice laws.

Moreover, the laws in some states, such as Florida, define which professionals are covered by their medical malpractice presuit screening act by listing the licensing laws to which the medical malpractice presuit screening act applies. Thus, in Florida, Section 766.202(4), Florida Statutes refer to those licensed by Chapter 464 (Part I), Florida Statutes. Both licensed practical nurses and registered nurses are licensed in accordance with that Chapter of Florida Statutes. Thus both are covered by the Florida Medical Malpractice Presuit Screening Act.

Contact Health Law Attorneys With Experience Representing Nurses and Handling Licensing Issues.

If you are applying for a nursing or healthcare license, have had a license suspended or revoked, or are facing imminent action against your license, you must contact an experienced healthcare attorney to assist you in defending your career. Remember, your license is your livelihood. It is not recommended that you attempt to pursue these matters without the assistance of an attorney. The Health Law Firm routinely represents nurses, physicians, dentists, medical groups, clinics, and other healthcare providers in personal and facility licensing issues. If you have received a notice that a complaint has been filed against you or that you are under investigation by the department of health or your licensing board, we routinely provide legal representation in such matters; often, there may be insurance coverage that may pay for your legal defense.

To contact The Health Law Firm, call (407) 331-6620 or toll-free (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Karpan, Andrew. “No Affidavit Needed To Sue ‘Practical’ Nurses, NJ Court Says.” Law360. (November 9, 2022). Web.

Murphy, Colleen. “NJ Appeals Court: No Affidavit of Merit Needed for Negligence Claim Against Licensed Practical Nurse.” Law.com. (November 10, 2022). 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. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

Employment with The Health Law Firm. The Health Law Firm is always seeking qualified attorneys, paralegals and legal staff interested in health law. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. If you are a current member of The Florida Bar or a qualified legal professional or secretary, who is interested, please forward your cover letter and resume to: [email protected] or fax them to (407) 331-3030.

“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 © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

By |2024-03-14T09:59:12-04:00February 8, 2024|Categories: Nursing Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |Comments Off on New Jersey Appeals Court Says Plaintiffs Don’t Need Affidavit to Sue LPN in Medical Malpractice Cases

Rapper 50 Cent Sues Florida Plastic Surgeon Over “Penile Enhancement” Ads & Social Media Photos

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

On September 16, 2022, 50 Cent, the rapper and entrepreneur, sued a plastic surgeon and her Sunny Isle Beach, Florida, medical practice in federal court. The suit alleges that the doctor used photographs she took with 50 Cent to promote her business on social media. without his consent. The suit also alleges that the ads and social media falsely implied that 50 Cent had received penile enhancement treatment from the doctor’s practice when he had not.

A 32-page complaint (lawsuit) was filed in federal court in the Southern District of Florida by 50 Cent, whose real name is Curtis J. Jackson III. It was filed against Angela Kogan, M.D., and Perfection Plastic Surgery and Medspa.

And whoever said the practice of health law wasn’t fun and interesting?

Allegations Made in the Complaint.

According to the complaint, the plaintiff is a “world-famous celebrity and entrepreneur.” In February 2020, according to the complaint, 50 Cent agreed to take a photograph with Dr. Kogan. He thought she was a fan. Once she had taken the picture, the complaint states, she allegedly used it as promotional content for Perfection Plastic Surgery, touting 50 Cent as a client and insinuating his endorsement.

50 Cent claims that since the defendant took the photo, it’s also been featured in a news article opposite an image of a faceless male allegedly undergoing a penile enhancement procedure. He argues that this made the implication of the article clear, stating that “not only were [plaintiff’s] image and name linked to a sexual enhancement treatment he never had, but Kogan also falsely implied that [plaintiff] was her client for plastic surgery.”

Between February 2020, when the photos were taken, and August of 2022, the complaint alleges, Dr. Kogan and her business posted the images on her business accounts seven times, along with multiple hashtags for users to find them. However, the posts did not include disclaimers that 50 Cent was not a client/patient, the suit says.

Causes of Action Include Invasion of Privacy, Lanham Act Violations and More.

The complaint states that 50 Cent never received plastic surgery from the defendants. The complaint concludes by asserting that the defendants “opportunistically misappropriated Jackson’s (50 Cent’s) name and image for their own promotional and commercial advantage,” in violation of the Lanham Act and the plaintiff’s right to publicity.

The six-count complaint cites right of publicity, common law invasion of privacy, two violations of the Lanham Act, conversion, and unjust enrichment. 50 Cent is seeking punitive, treble, and exemplary damages, a permanent injunction preventing the defendants from further misconduct, litigation fees, interest, disgorgement of profits, and any other relief deemed proper by the court.
Read the complaint in full here.

Stay tuned for more on this interesting Florida law suit, as it unfolds.

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

At the Health Law Firm, we provide legal services, including defense in complex medical litigation, for physicians, medical groups, and other healthcare providers. This includes plastic surgeons, cosmetic dermatologists, nurse practitioners, oral and maxillofacial surgeons, psychologists, psychiatrists, mental health counselors, and many others. This includes medical students, resident physicians, and fellows, as well as medical school professors and clinical staff. We also represent health facilities, individuals, groups, and institutions in contracts, sales, and mergers, and acquisitions. The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are also experienced in litigation at formal and informal administrative hearings. We also represent physicians accused of wrongdoing, patient complaints, and in Department of Health investigations.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call our office at (407) 331-6620 or toll-free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.ThehealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Atkins, Dorothy. “50 Cent Sues Fla. Surgeon Over ‘Penile Enhancement’ Ads.” Law360. (September 20, 2022). Web.

Heebink, Kendall. “Rapper 50 Cent Sues Florida Plastic Surgeon Over False Claims.” Law Street Media. (September 19, 2022). 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 Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

Attorney Positions with The Health Law Firm. The Health Law Firm is always looking for qualified attorneys interested in the practice of health law. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. If you are a member of The Florida Bar and are interested, forward a cover letter and your resume to: [email protected] or fax to: (407) 331-3030.

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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 © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

By |2024-03-14T09:59:13-04:00January 28, 2024|Categories: Medical Education Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |Comments Off on Rapper 50 Cent Sues Florida Plastic Surgeon Over “Penile Enhancement” Ads & Social Media Photos

Ex-Navy Officer Sentenced to 2.5 Years in Prison For $2 Million Insurance Fraud

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

On October 18, 2023, an ex-Navy officer was sentenced to 30 months in prison after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud for his role in an insurance fraud scheme. The judge tacked on an extra three years of post-release supervision.

The case is U.S. v. Cote et al., case number 3:18-cr-01674, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California.

The Fraudulent Scheme.

The former Naval officer admitted to conspiring with eight others to defraud the Traumatic Service Members Group Life Insurance Program. This insurance program provides short-term financial support for injured service members.

The former officer allegedly worked closely in the fraud scheme with his then-spouse, who was a Navy nurse, and a Navy doctor.

The scheme consisted of submitting fake or exaggerated injuries to the insurance company to enrich themselves. The ex-Navy officer submitted false claims to the program and encouraged numerous other Navy personnel to submit false claims.

The Navy personnel would submit their medical records to the former officer’s then-wife. As a Naval nurse, she would allegedly falsify the records and the Naval doctor would sign off on the documents. The ex-Navy officer received kickbacks under the guise of a “processing fee.”

The scheme defrauded the insurance program of $2,000,000, and the former Navy officer personally received $400,000, according to the reports on the case. He was sentenced to 30 months for conspiracy to commit wire fraud with three years of supervised release.

What is happening to the others involved in this scheme is not clear at this time. It is doubtful that they will have long, successful Navy careers.

Consult a Health Law Attorney Who Is Familiar with Army, Navy, and Air Force Health Care Professionals and Their Problems.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm have represented federal physicians, nurses, dentists, and other health professionals in the Army, Navy, and Air Force, active duty and retired, as well as physicians, nurses, and other health professionals working for the Veterans Administration (VA) in the U.S. and around the world. They represent physicians and other health professionals with the Indian Health Service (IHS) and the Public Health Service (PHS). Representation has included disciplinary action, investigations, peer review investigations, clinical privileges actions, fair hearings, National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) actions, and appeals.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call (407) 331-6620 or toll-free (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Correll, Diana Stancey. “Former Navy chief sentenced in $2 million insurance fraud scam.” Navy Times. (19 October 2023) https://www.navytimes.com/news/your-navy/2023/10/19/former-navy-chief-sentenced-in-2-million-insurance-fraud-scam/

Danney, Micah. “Ex-Navy Officer Gets 2.5 Years For $2.5M Insurance Fraud.” Law360. (18 October 2023) https://www.law360.com/health/articles/1734129?nl_pk=0cbd4c0b-c6c8-416a-9e67-b4affa63b102&utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=health&utm_content=2023-10-19&read_main=1&nlsidx=0&nlaidx=14&detected=1

Lehrfeld, Jonathan. “Former sailor pleads guilty in $2 million insurance fraud scam.” Navy Times. (1 November 2022) https://www.navytimes.com/news/your-navy/2023/10/19/former-navy-chief-sentenced-in-2-million-insurance-fraud-scam/

United States v. Toups No. 3:18-cr-01674 (S.D. Cal October 16, 2023)

About the Authors: 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. Hartley Brooks is a Law Clerk at The Health Law Firm. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

Current Open Positions with The Health Law Firm. The Health Law Firm always seeks qualified individuals interested in health law. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. If you are a current member of The Florida Bar or a qualified professional who is interested, please forward a cover letter and resume to: [email protected] or fax them to (407) 331-3030.

“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 © 2024 George F. Indest III, The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved. No part of this work may be reproduced in any form in any medium for any purpose without the written permission of the copyright holder. The copyright holder/creator reserves the right to have his name associated with every part of this work.

By |2024-03-14T09:59:14-04:00January 2, 2024|Categories: Health Facilities Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |Comments Off on Ex-Navy Officer Sentenced to 2.5 Years in Prison For $2 Million Insurance Fraud

New Study Reveals Complex Coding Structures in U.S. For Rise in Medical Billing Costs

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

A study publicized in August 2022 revealed that the complex coding structures used in the United States drive up medical billing costs. This helps to make the U.S. one of the most expensive countries for health providers to get paid. According to the study, researchers used a micro-level accounting of billing and insurance-related (often abbreviated “BIR”) expenses in different national settings at six provider locations in five nations: Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, and Singapore. This most recent study supplements a prior study measuring such costs in the U.S.

The findings, published in Health Affairs Journal, revealed “BIR (billing and insurance-related) costs in the U.S. are generally much higher than the costs in other countries.” This means that all the extra costs of coding and billing, including the related expenses, are a significant factor in driving up health care cases in the U.S. Say what you want about doctors’ hating paperwork, but this study seems to validate that feeling.

The Findings of the Study.

The study confirmed what research has established that billing and insurance-related (BIR) costs in the U.S. are much higher than in other countries. For example, prices range from $6 in Canada to $215 in the U.S. for an inpatient surgical bill. In the U.S., that represented about 3.1 percent of the total professional revenue for the procedure. Providers also spent about 100 minutes processing the claim.

To compare, only Australia had similar billing and insurance-related costs to the U.S. Australia has a mix of publicly and privately funded payers and universal coverage. Billing and insurance-related costs were significantly less in Canada than in the other nations. The study said Germany, Singapore, and the Netherlands had equal billing and insurance-related costs.

A Common Trend: Complex Coding.

The U.S. has a coding process in which each payer has its forms and documentation requirements, creating a significant burden on providers to translate clinical documentation into billable codes for reimbursement.

Because of standardization in other countries, providers spend less time coding or do not need coders to translate documentation into billable codes. Additionally, “little physician time is spent entering billing-related information into the EHR [electronic health record] system, as charge codes are either generated automatically or entered manually by a lower-wage or nonclinical teammate,” the study stated. “As a consequence, these countries’ billing systems either require fewer labor resources or much less costly labor and physician time than the one in the U.S.”

Researchers also found that financial counseling could reduce overall billing and insurance-related costs in the U.S.

You can read the study in full and learn more by visiting Health Affairs, a leading peer-reviewed journal of health policy thought and research.

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, home health agencies, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and other healthcare providers. It also includes medical students, resident physicians, and fellows, as well as medical school professors and clinical staff. We represent health facilities, individuals, groups, and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers, and acquisitions. The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in complex litigation and both formal and informal administrative hearings. We also represent physicians accused of wrongdoing, patient complaints, and in Department of Health investigations.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call our office at (407) 331-6620 or toll-free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.ThehealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

LaPointe, Jacqueline. “Coding Drives Up Medical Billing Costs in the US.” Rev Cycle Intelligence. (August 3, 2022) Web.

Norris, Amanda. “REV CYCLE PROCESSES PUSH U.S. TO TOP OF LIST FOR HIGHEST MEDICAL BILLING COSTS.” Health Leaders Media. (August 10, 2022). 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 Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

“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 © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

By |2024-03-14T09:59:15-04:00December 21, 2023|Categories: Mental Health Law Blog|Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |Comments Off on New Study Reveals Complex Coding Structures in U.S. For Rise in Medical Billing Costs

New Study Faults Coding Structures For Increased Medical Billing Costs in U.S.

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

A study publicized in August 2022 revealed that the complex coding structures used in the United States drive up medical billing costs. This helps to make the U.S. one of the most expensive countries for health providers to get paid. According to the study, researchers used a micro-level accounting of billing and insurance-related (often abbreviated “BIR”) expenses in different national settings at six provider locations in five nations: Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, and Singapore. This most recent study supplements a prior study measuring such costs in the U.S.

The findings, published in Health Affairs Journal, revealed “BIR (billing and insurance-related) costs in the U.S. are generally much higher than the costs in other countries.” This means that all the extra costs of coding and billing, including the related expenses, are a significant factor in driving up health care cases in the U.S. Say what you want about doctors’ hating paperwork, but this study seems to validate that feeling.

The Findings of the Study.

The study confirmed what research has established that billing and insurance-related (BIR) costs in the U.S. are much higher than in other countries. For example, prices range from $6 in Canada to $215 in the U.S. for an inpatient surgical bill. In the U.S., that represented about 3.1 percent of the total professional revenue for the procedure. Providers also spent about 100 minutes processing the claim.

To compare, only Australia had similar billing and insurance-related costs to the U.S. Australia has a mix of publicly and privately funded payers and universal coverage. Billing and insurance-related costs were significantly less in Canada than in the other nations. The study said Germany, Singapore, and the Netherlands had equal billing and insurance-related costs.

A Common Trend: Complex Coding.

The U.S. has a coding process in which each payer has its forms and documentation requirements, creating a significant burden on providers to translate clinical documentation into billable codes for reimbursement.

Because of standardization in other countries, providers spend less time coding or do not need coders to translate documentation into billable codes. Additionally, “little physician time is spent entering billing-related information into the EHR [electronic health record] system, as charge codes are either generated automatically or entered manually by a lower-wage or nonclinical teammate,” the study stated. “As a consequence, these countries’ billing systems either require fewer labor resources or much less costly labor and physician time than the one in the U.S.”

Researchers also found that financial counseling could reduce overall billing and insurance-related costs in the U.S.

You can read the study in full and learn more by visiting Health Affairs, a leading peer-reviewed journal of health policy thought and research.

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, home health agencies, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and other healthcare providers. It also includes medical students, resident physicians, and fellows, as well as medical school professors and clinical staff. We represent health facilities, individuals, groups, and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers, and acquisitions. The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in complex litigation and both formal and informal administrative hearings. We also represent physicians accused of wrongdoing, patient complaints, and in Department of Health investigations.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call our office at (407) 331-6620 or toll-free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.ThehealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

LaPointe, Jacqueline. “Coding Drives Up Medical Billing Costs in the US.” Rev Cycle Intelligence. (August 3, 2022) Web.

Norris, Amanda. “REV CYCLE PROCESSES PUSH U.S. TO TOP OF LIST FOR HIGHEST MEDICAL BILLING COSTS.” Health Leaders Media. (August 10, 2022). 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 Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

“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 © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

U.S. Government Renews COVID-19 Public Health Emergency, Extending Health Benefits for Millions of Americans

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

On July 15, 2022, the United States again renewed the COVID-19 public health emergency, allowing millions of Americans special access to free tests, vaccines, and treatments. The public health emergency was initially declared in January 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic began. Since then, the Department of Health and Human Services has renewed it each quarter. HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra officially renewed the declaration extending it through October 13, 2022. View it in full here.

Ensuring Continued Access to Special Services During the Public-Health Emergency.

The declaration allows the U.S. to grant emergency authorizations of drugs, vaccines, and other medical countermeasures. As a result, it can administer those products to millions of people at no out-of-pocket cost. It’s also enabled millions of Americans to get health coverage through Medicaid, among other benefits.

It may also have additional benefits, such as allowing certain health care professionals to practice across state lines without getting a license in the state where the patient is and encouraging the continuation of video visits (telemedicine). But check your state and national regulations to be sure.

When the public health emergency expires, insured patients will be subject to co-pays or other costs, while the uninsured will lose easy access to free testing. In addition, millions could risk losing Medicaid coverage as states reinstate stricter enrollment rules that they had loosened to qualify for enhanced federal funding.

The Biden administration has ensured states it will give 60 days’ notice before ending the emergency to allow sufficient time to prepare for changes to specific programs and regulatory authorities. To learn more about Public Health Emergency Declarations, visit the Office for the Assistant Secretary of Preparedness and Response.

To read one of my prior blogs on the status of the COVID-19 pandemic in the healthcare industry, click here.

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, home health agencies, hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, pain management clinics, nursing homes, and other healthcare providers. It also includes medical students, resident physicians, fellows, medical school professors, and clinical staff. We represent health facilities, individuals, groups, and institutions in contracts, sales, mergers, and acquisitions. The lawyers of The Health Law Firm are experienced in complex litigation and both formal and informal administrative hearings. We also represent physicians accused of wrongdoing, patient complaints, and Department of Health investigations.

To contact The Health Law Firm, please call our office at (407) 331-6620 or toll-free at (888) 331-6620 and visit our website at www.ThehealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Aboulenein, Ahmed. “U.S. Renews COVID-19 Public Health Emergency.” Reuters. (April 13, 2022). Web.

Griffin, Riley. “Biden Administration to Again Extend the Covid Public-Health Emergency.” Bloomberg Law. (July 11, 2022). Web.

AHLA. “US Government To Extend COVID-19 Public Health Emergency Again.” Health Law Daily. (July 13, 2022). 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 Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave. Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

“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 © 2022 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

Helpful Tips Healthcare Professionals Should Be Following for Professional Correspondence

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

I review many letters, e-mails, memoranda, and other types of correspondence prepared by my physician and nurse clients during my legal representation. These come to me often because of a dispute with a hospital, their peers, an insurance company, a lawsuit filed by a patient, a complaint being investigated by the licensing agency, an investigation of an incident, or another serious matter.

In many cases, way too many cases, such correspondence is unprofessional and defeats the purpose of the reason you are sending the correspondence. Sometimes the “letter” is so bad, that it will be disregarded by the reader to whom it was directed. I have seen this from doctors, nurses, dentists, psychologists, owners of health care businesses, and many, many other highly educated professionals who really should know better.

When I receive a “letter” that has no return address on it, no date on it is not addressed to a person or organization, has typographical errors and misspellings, does not have a paragraph, or is not signed, I cringe.

When such documents are dictated and transcribed by a professional medical transcriptionist, they are usually properly formatted and many of the errors I note below are avoided. However, when the health professional types (or word-processes) his or her own document or, worse yet, hand writes it, this is when I see the most errors.

To avoid these errors that make your correspondence and written communications look unprofessional, follow these tips.

Remember Why You Are Writing.

Remember, the basic purpose of your correspondence is to communicate ideas effectively. In many cases, it will be to invoke your legal rights in certain situations (such as an appeal or a hearing request). Sometimes, it will attempt to persuade your hospital, peers, or employer to take a certain action or refrain from a certain action. Remember that your correspondence is often the first impression that the other side will have of you. Do you want it to be an impression that you are sloppy, lazy, unprofessional, not knowledgeable, uneducated, or confused?

Whether you are communicating in a letter or via e-mail, these rules still hold true. In many (if not all) situations involving legal proceedings or legal issues, it is probably best to communicate via a letter sent by U.S. mail or some other reliable delivery service (e.g., Federal Express, Airborne Express, DHL, etc.). Even if you are transmitting your information via e-mail, it is my suggestion to prepare it in the form of a paper letter (if your e-mail is not set up to insert your letterhead and signature block automatically) and then scans it in and send it electronically.

I discourage legal communications via e-mail in serious matters because e-mails are often difficult to obtain, isolate, and authenticate when you need them for hearings. Additionally, they are rarely secure, often available to many others who shouldn’t see them, and easily susceptible to being accidentally sent to others who should not see them at all.

Horror Stories of Unprofessional Correspondence.

Why do I feel this article is necessary? Because of all the truly horrible correspondence I have seen written by allegedly highly educated professionals, mostly physicians and nurses. That’s why!

True “Horror Stories” About Unprofessional Correspondence

Here are just a few examples of true “horror stories” regarding unprofessional correspondence:

The physician never wrote a separate response to any charges or allegations made against him after receiving letters from the Medical Staff advising him he was under investigation. He would just hand write (scribble, actually) his remarks on the bottoms and in the margins of whatever document was sent to him and then send it back.

A nurse practitioner was required to respond to serious negligence charges, resulting in an adverse outcome for a patient. On unlined paper, she hand-wrote a response letter that was not addressed to anyone, not dated, not signed, and did not state who was sending it. There was no name or signature on it.

A physician was required to provide his analysis of a patient’s case for peer review purposes within the hospital. His typed letter of three full pages, single-spaced, contained one long paragraph. I used to work for a Medical Corps Admiral when I was a Navy JAG Corps officer. The Admiral, a very educated and proper professional, would just glance at such correspondence and state: “I can tell this doctor doesn’t have any idea what he is talking about.” Failing to follow good correspondence procedures will show others your thoughts lack organization and cohesion. A document that lacks organization reflects a mind that lacks organization.

A health professional was required to complete an application for clinical privileges. He wrote all of the answers by hand, not even staying within the lines on the form, writing over the questions printed on the form and around in the margins of the application. This is what he signed and turned in to the credentials committee at the hospital. Believe me, this did not look very professional.

A physician was requested to respond to a medical staff inquiry from the hospital. Her response came back typed (actually word-processed) in a type font that was 22 characters per inch (cpi), almost too small to read. Perhaps she was just trying to save a sheet of paper. But many of us would have had to pull out a magnifying glass or put on reading glasses in order to be able to read it. Once it is scanned or faxed and then photocopied or re-scanned and re-faxed several times, it will be completely illegible. If you are actually trying to communicate your ideas, make your correspondence easier to read, not harder to read. This is my cardinal rule.

A dentist was notified of a pending complaint investigation being opened against her dental license. She wrote her response to the charges back to the investigator, without using any business address or title, and began her response statement with “Dear Sharon,”. Do not treat others informally, especially in professional or formal situations. You will be deemed to be unprofessional when you do so. The investigator is not your friend, your sister, or your mommy. Do not address her by her first name. Do not end the salutation with a comma, like you would a love letter. End it with a colon like you would a professional business letter.

30 Tips for Good Professional Correspondence.

Here are some pointers on professional communications that should be followed in all of your professional written communications about business, professional or legal matters, even in e-mails. Please note, that the terms below in quotation marks have certain defined meanings. If you don’t know what these terms mean, look them up.

1. Always remember that the reason you are sending the correspondence is to attempt to effectively and accurately communicate your position and ideas. If you are trying to make your message indecipherable or difficult to understand, ignore these tips. If you are trying to come across as someone who doesn’t give a damn about how he or she is perceived, ignore these tips. If you want to come across as unprofessional, ignore these tips.

2. Make sure you include your complete and correct “return address” and contact information if you are not using your own letterhead. This includes your physical or mailing address, telephone number, telefax number and e-mail address, so that the other party knows exactly how to reach you. In cases where you already have this on your letterhead, be sure to use your letterhead (but only your own). Also, it appears more professional to create a letterhead with the information in it and to use your new letterhead instead of having a professional business letter with a typed “return address.” However, a typed “return address” is better than none.

3. Don’t use someone else’s letterhead. Don’t use your hospital, medical group or institutional letterhead for your own personal communications, unless you are the owner. Use your personal letterhead (see above), instead. If you are being accused of poor utilization review, unprofessional conduct, or personal use of hospital (or company) property, then using someone else’s letterhead just helps prove the charge against you.

4. Date your correspondence. Date your correspondence. Date your correspondence. Nothing shows a lack of professionalism and lack of attention to detail as sharply as undated correspondence. It will certainly be difficult to prove when your letter or document was sent if you do not have a date on it. A year or two later, it may be completely impossible to do so. In case I forgot to mention it, be sure to date your correspondence.

5. Use titles or honorifics. In the “business address” of your correspondence, always use the complete name of the person to whom you are writing (if known) together with that person’s honorific or professional title (e.g., Mr., Ms., Dr., Nurse, Prof., Dean, etc.) This shows both respect and professionalism.

6. Always use the complete mailing address, including the title, of the person to whom you are sending the letter. The business address of your correspondence includes not only the person’s name and honorifics but the title or position and division within the institution or organization to which you are sending it. In the case of large organizations, you should include the building and suite or room numbers and any internal routing codes, designations, “mail stops” or other organizational routing codes, that the agency or business you are writing requires to route its mail internally. Large organizations, especially government agencies and insurance companies, all have large mail rooms that sort and route all mail the organization receives from any source. Correct internal routing codes will help ensure that your correspondence gets to the correct person or official in a timely manner. Often today companies scan or have all e-mails saved by a clerk, as well

7. Always use a salutation. This is self-explanatory but see below.

8. In your “salutation,” always use the person’s last name with a title or honorific. It is customary to use the term “Dear” in a salutation in formal writing, so this is permitted. But you may leave it out. For example, “Dear Secretary Jones:” or “Secretary Jones:” or “Dear Dr. Johnson:” or “Dr. Johnson:”; all of these are correct. Never refer to the person by that person’s first name in any type of formal correspondence or correspondence that anyone else might read. Never say: “Dear Sue:” or “Sharon:”. Even if you know these people well enough to call them by their first names, don’t do it in this situation; it’s unprofessional and may be interpreted as “talking down” to the person.

9. Always end your “salutation” with a colon, not a comma. A comma is only used in informal communications to those you know well or socially, such as a letter to your mother or a note to your girlfriend. Unless this is your mother or your girlfriend to whom you are writing, use a colon. For example, “Dear Secretary Jones,” or “Dear Sue,” is incorrect. “Dear Secretary Jones:” or “Ms. Smith:” is correct.

10. Type (or word-process) your correspondence or have it typed (or word-processed) for you; this is one reason transcriptionists, secretaries and clerks have jobs. Do not send handwritten letters in formal or professional matters. Do not write on the other person’s correspondence or documents and send them back. Prepare and send a professional-looking letter or e-mail, even if you must pay someone to type it for you (and if you are sending an e-mail, I know you can type a little bit yourself, anyway). To do otherwise is to show laziness, disrespect and unprofessionalism.

11. Always use a type font in your correspondence (including e-mails) of at least 12 points (10 characters per inch). Do not use small, difficult-to-read type fonts, for example, the size of the type font that most e-mail software defaults to. Smaller type fonts than 12 points become difficult to read, especially if scanned/rescanned, faxed/refaxed, or copied/recopied. Change the default font in your e-mail software or computer word processing software, if necessary. You can do this, regardless of how difficult it may seem at first; I know you can do it because I can do it. Make your professional correspondence easier to read, not more difficult to read.

12. Never use unprofessional-looking type fonts for your communications. Stay away from script-type fonts, italics, or novelty-type fonts. These are notoriously more difficult to read and look unprofessional. You are not publishing a flyer for a high school bake sale. Times New Roman, CG Times, and similar type fonts are more professional looking and easier for a person to read. Use Courier or Letter Gothic type fonts if necessary.

13. Keep the correspondence to which you are responding unmarked. One reason to not write on or mark up the other person’s documents or correspondence is that you may need them as evidence in a court of law or a hearing someday. Nothing looks less professional than a document you are trying to use as evidence when a different person has made handwritten marks all over it. The impression is similar to one in which a child with a box of crayons has gotten to it. You don’t want this or need this. Show respect and self-control. Keep the other side’s documents pristine. They will look much better that way as your “Exhibit 1” in the court hearing.

14. Use a good concise, descriptive reference line or subject line (often called the “re:” line). Make it a very brief summary. State what the content of your letter is actually about. State if you are responding to a letter or document that you received from the “addressee” (the person to whom you are addressing your correspondence) of your letter.

15. Include the recipient’s routing information. If the intended receiver of your letter or correspondence (the “addressee”) included reference numbers, file numbers, account numbers, case name and numbers, a policy number, an investigation number, a routing number, or other similar information on its letter to you, repeat these back in the reference line of your correspondence. This will help make sure that your correspondence gets routed to the correct file and recipient more timely. This is especially crucial in large organizations and government agencies.

16. The contents of the body of your correspondence should be easy to read and easy to understand. To this end, be sure to use short sentences and short paragraphs. Each paragraph should convey one idea. Use headers and section titles, if necessary, to organize your correspondence, especially if it is lengthy. Remember, headings within your letter that help to organize it are like street signs in a busy city. They will really help any subsequent reader (and this may be a judge, a jury or a Board of Mediciney) to navigate his, her or its way through your letter.

17. Be sure to skip a line between each paragraph and, preferably, indent the first line of each paragraph. [Note: Some writers will tell you not to indent the first line of each paragraph in professional correspondence; however, I feel that this makes the correspondence more difficult to read, so I encourage indenting or tabbing in on the first line of each paragraph.] This makes it easier on the reader and more likely that your ideas will not get lost in a crowd of words.

18. Keep your paragraphs short and to the point. Nothing turns readers off as much as a single lengthy paragraph written from margin to margin taking up the whole page. I suppose some people may have never been taught what paragraphs are. However, I am willing to bet that most were. These rare used even in foreign countries.

19. In longer correspondence, use section headings (in bold or underlined) or headings for each issue, to better organize it. Think of these as road signs on a long road. They help the reader to know where he or she is at any given time, and where he or she is going.

20. When using headers, skip two lines before the header and one line after the header. This helps to set off the new section and header and show a definite division.

21. Keep your language objective and professional. Do not ever use profanity [Oops, I just went back and removed the word “damn” I used above.] Do not ever use any comments even remotely resembling racism, sexism, or antisemitism or prejudice. Do not be sarcastic.

22. Be direct and concise in your language. To the greatest extent possible, use the same terminology and wording that the other party uses, or has used, or the wording used in whatever statutes, regulations, policies, procedures, instructions, or governing documents with which you are dealing (but also, be sure you know what the words and terms mean).

23. If you intend to request a formal hearing say “I request a formal hearing.” If you want a full refund, state: “I request a full refund.” If you want to appeal the decision, state: “I want to appeal the decision.” Don’t be wishy-washy or vague. For example, don’t say, “I am looking for an attorney to file an appeal for me,” when what you mean to say is “I appeal the decision” or “I request an appeal.” Say precisely what you want. Don’t be vague or leave the reader guessing.

24. If there are any deadlines by which you must respond, be aware of these and make sure your response is received by that date. Remember “received” means “actually received” by the correct person (or office) at the correct address. It does not mean “mailed by” or “postmarked by.” If you have correspondence or a document to which a response must be received by a ceratin date, you need to make sure it is actually in the receiving person’s hands by that date, even if you must hand carry it to that person. I will usually send important documents by two different methods, in case the mail man dies, the courier service’s plan crashes or the e-mail server goes down.

25. In closing your correspondence conclude by stating what action is next, whether this is action you intend to take, or action you are requesting the other party to take. For example: “I expect to hear from you within ten days as to whether you grant my request or not.” “Please contact me with hearing dates within the next fourteen days.” “I will forward you a refund within five days.” “I will send you my records within five days.”

26. Always advise the other party of exactly how they should contact you; provide multiple means of contacting you. If you are very busy or have an assistant who is authorized to act for you, provide that person’s name and contact information to use as an alternate, as well. Then be available to receive the return communication(s). Don’t give telephone numbers you never answer. Don’t provide an incorrect address (e-mail or physical).

27. In dealing with dates and deadlines, remember that ten days is ten days; fourteen days is fourteen days, twenty-one days is twenty-one days. Made up rules such as “weekends and holidays don’t count” are just that, made up (outside of formal court proceedings). If the other party has given you “fourteen days to respond,” this means fourteen days from the date on the letter, unless specifically stated otherwise. Fourteen days means fourteen days, unless it is specifically stated otherwise (e.g., “you have fourteen business days to reply”).

28. Include a professional closing above your signature. This should be “Sincerely,” “Sincerely yours,” “Respectfully,” “Respectfully submitted,” or some other professional closing. Do not conclude with “Love,” or “Very truly yours,” despite the tradition.

29. In your signature block, include your full typed name, with credentials and title or position listed. For example, your full name, followed by your degree and other credentials (e.g., “John J. Smith, M.D., F.A.A.C.P.”) should be on the line immediately below where you sign. Next should be listed your position within your organization (if applicable) (e.g., “Chair, Pediatrics Department”).

30. If you have enclosures, list them at the end of the correspondence, giving a brief or shortened description and numbering them (this is slightly different from military correspondence). List and number them in the order you discuss them in your correspondence. Be sure they are properly organized, labeled, and divided, especially if any are lengthy.

Following these simple rules, most people learn in middle school will help to keep your correspondence professional looking and in conformity with what most professionals see on a daily basis. If your correspondence is professional-looking, people will be more likely to think you are a professional and to treat you professionally.

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, Suite 1000, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620 or Toll-Free: (888) 331-6620.

“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.
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