Students Graduating Medical School in Three Years

IMG_5281 fixedBy Danielle M. Murray, J.D.

To combat the nationwide shortage of primary care physicians and the increase in student debt, several medical schools around the country are offering the chance for students to finish school in three years, instead of four. According to a number of news articles, these programs are geared specifically toward medical students looking to practice primary care. The hope is that these programs will be cost less for students and add more primary care physicians to under-served areas.

Schools Across the U.S. Offer Three-Year Degrees.

According to an article in The New York Times, a small number of students are currently participating in the three-year degree program. There are about 16 incoming students in the program at New York University (N.Y.U.), nine students at Texas Tech Health Science Center School of Medicine and an even smaller number are at the Mercer University School of Medicine campus in Georgia. In an interview in The New York Times, the dean at Texas Tech said if this approach works, the schools will open up the program to a larger number of students.

To read the entire New York Times article, click here.

Condensed Medical School Not for Everyone.

According to an article in American Medical News, the condensed medical school eliminates breaks and electives and allows students to begin clerkship training in their second year. This is a full year earlier than the traditional four-year curriculums. In the same article, medical experts warn these accelerated programs are not for everyone, saying it takes a mature person to go through rotations earlier and at a quicker pace.

Students are given a chance to opt out if they decide to pursue a different career path. The American Medical News article explains that at Mercer, students who decide that family medicine is not for them are integrated into the traditional four-year program.

Click here to read the article from American Medical News.

Program Developed to Help with Student Debt and Doctor Shortage.

This three-year program is expected to save a quarter of the cost of medical school, which is more than $49,000 a year in tuition and fees at N.Y.U., according to The New York Times. The money saved helps primary care physicians lessen their debt as they go to work in a lower paying field. This program is expected to attract more students to practice in fields such as pediatrics and internal medicine.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the physician shortage is expected to reach 91,500 physicians by 2020. This program, as it grows, can help alleviate the shortage and bring more doctors to areas in need.

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

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

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

Comments?

What do you think of a three-year medical school degree for doctors? Do you think the fourth year of medical school is necessary for primary care physicians? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Hartcocollis, Anemona. “N.Y.U. and Other Medical Schools Offer Shorter Course in Training, for Less Tuition.” The New York Times. (December 23, 2012). From: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/24/education/nyu-and-others-offer-shorter-courses-through-medical-school.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

Krupa, Carolyne. “Med School on the Fast Track: A 3-Year Degree.” American Medical Association. (May 7, 2012). From: http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2012/05/07/prl20507.htm

About the Author: Danielle M. Murray 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 Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

VA Physicians and Health Professionals Should Fight Allegations of Substandard Care in Peer Review Matters

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

I have represented physicians, psychologists, nurse practitioners, nurses and other health professionals working in Veterans Administration (VA) medical centers and clinics throughout the United States.  My representation has included personnel and employment issues, disciplinary actions, investigations, peer review investigations, clinical privileges actions, fair hearings, National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) actions and appeals.

If a complaint involving allegations of lack of clinical competence or skill is made, it is extremely important for the physician or nurse practitioner to retain the services of an experienced health lawyer to represent him or her immediately.  This is not the time to seek the cheapest attorney you can find.  You need skilled representation by an advocate who knows medical terminology, understands medical issues and procedures, knows physicians, and has experience with fair hearings.

You Have Rights.

VA Handbook 1100.19, Credentialing and Privileging, requires that the VA hospital afford you due process of law and fundamental fairness at every step of the process in any clinical privileges action.  This includes timely advance notice of the specific allegations made against you, the evidence that is to be used against you, legal representation, advance notice of witnesses and documents that may be introduced against you, the opportunity to prepare a defense to the allegations, the right to cross examine witnesses, the right to introduce evidence (documents and witnesses, including expert witnesses) in your defense, a neutral and unbiased hearing panel, and other such rights.  Attorneys who are not familiar with such hearings may be unaware of your rights or how to properly exercise and safeguard them.

How to Take Care of Your License.

Don’t seek legal advice from your colleagues, from your accountant or from an attorney who does not specialize in such matters. We don’t recommend shopping around for the cheapest attorney you can find.  Please do not hire a personal injury attorney, a civil litigation attorney, and employment law attorney or any other attorney without health law experience.  Your professional life, career and medical license are at stake.  You are in the fight of your life.  Treat it as such.

If you were diagnosed with a brain tumor, would you attempt to perform your own brain surgery?  Would you shop around to find the cheapest neurosurgeon to perform the surgery?  Or would you look for the best?  Yet, physicians routinely believe they can represent themselves in such matters.  In our experience, this simply is not the case.

Contact an Experienced Health Law Attorney Before You Do Anything.

Far too frequently we are contacted by physicians after the investigation has been completed, after the hearing has been held and after the physician’s clinical privileges have been revoked.  Except for an appeal on narrow grounds, little can be done.

If the VA revokes your clinical privileges, by regulation, this will be reported to the NPDB and to every state in which you have a license.  The NPDB report remains on your file for 50 years.  Any time in the future you apply for clinical privileges, for a medical license or for medical malpractice insurance, this report will come up and cause you serious problems.  It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to obtain employment or to obtain clinical privileges in any hospital or institution with such a NPDB report on your file.  Additionally, any state in which you hold a license will also open an investigation against your medical license.

NPDB reports can be mitigated by filing an explanatory rebuttal (as is your right) or by filing a request for a Secretarial Review (appeal).  We can do this for you.  However, it is best to prevent a NPDB report from being filed to begin with.

Contact a Health Law Attorney Experienced in the Representation of Veterans Administration (VA) Physician Representation and Military Physician Representation.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm have represented physicians, psychologists, nurse practitioners, nurse and other health professionals working in Veterans Administration medical centers and clinics throughout the United States.  Representation has included personnel and employment issues, 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 (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.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Florida “wrongful births” leave health care providers liable

According to Institute of Medicine statistics, approximately 98,000 Americans die each year as a result of medical errors that could have been prevented. This is an example of ‘wrongful death,’ a term recognizable to many. However, the term ‘wrongful birth’ may not provide the same familiarity, but is causing just as much commotion in the legal arena.

In 2007, the Tampa Tribune provided details of such a case involving a University of South Florida doctor. This doctor told Daniel and Amara Estrada to go ahead with a second pregnancy, despite the fact that their first child had significant birth defects. However, the doctor did not provide all of the facts needed by the Estrada’s to make a decision about having a second child.

If this doctor properly diagnosed the first child with Smith-Lemli-Opitz syndrome (a syndrome with which the doctor was familiar), the Estrada’s would have known that a 25% chance existed that their second child would have this same genetic disorder, and a test could have been done during the pregnancy to find out for sure. Had they known that their second child had Smith-Lemli-Optiz syndrome, the Estrada’s would have terminated the pregnancy.

According to the Tampa Tribune, the “jury determined the Estradas deserve $23.5 million for lifetime care of their second child, born with the same genetic disorder as their first. The award includes payment for the pain and suffering caused by the doctor’s misdiagnosis.”

A similar case just resolved in September in Palm Beach County. In this incident, a boy was born without arms and with only one leg, but his parents had no prior knowledge that this would occur, despite regular prenatal care and sonograms.

According to Miami Injury Lawyer Blawg, the jury found that the doctor and ultrasound technician involved with this pregnancy fell below the standard of care by negligently administering a sonogram. Had they not been negligent, they would have discovered the abnormalities. If the parents were made aware of these abnormalities, they would have terminated the pregnancy. The parents were awarded $4.5 million to help them buy prostheses, wheelchairs and other medical services needed to aid in their child’s care.

Both of these lawsuits deal with a controversial matter: the right of a parent to sue on behalf of children with disabilities, claiming that they wouldn’t have had the child had they known the extent of the child’s disability. Florida is one of approximately 25 states that allow for these ‘wrongful birth’ suits, which present sensitive issues for jurors.

Health care providers in Florida need to be aware of the protections provided for parents in similar cases and strive to go above and beyond the standard of care. To learn more about how to protect yourself in these matters, visit http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/.

Hydrocodone Combination Drugs Could Be Reclassified to Schedule II Category of Controlled Substances

Lance Leider headshotBy Lance O. Leider, J.D., The Health Law Firm, and George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory committee voted 19 to 10 in favor of moving hydrocodone combination drugs from schedule III into the more restrictive schedule II category of controlled substances. According to a number of different sources, on January 25, 2013, the committee presented this recommendation to the FDA. If approved, hydrocodone combination drugs, such as Vicodin, will be harder for physicians to prescribe.

The advisory committee met because the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is requesting the FDA to approve the reclassification of hydrocodone combination products. The DEA wants to help curb the growing number of people across the country addicted to painkillers.

Click here to read an FDA briefing document given to the advisory committee.

It is now up to the FDA to decide whether or not to implement the advisory committee’s decision as to whether hydrocodone combination drugs will stay labeled as schedule III controlled substances or move to schedule II controlled substances. If medications containing hydrocodone are moved to schedule II, they will be in the same category as the widely abused oxycodone.

Hydrocodone Abuse is Serious.

Currently, hydrocodone products are the most widely prescribed drugs in the U.S., according to an article on MedPage Today. Records show that painkiller abuse kills more people in America than heroin and cocaine combined. The DEA argues that since these drugs are so frequently abused, they should be more tightly controlled.

To read the MedPage Today article, click here.

What You Need to Know as a Health Care Provider.

This change would have wide-spread consequences for health care professionals, especially doctors and pharmacists. Under the schedule II category of controlled substances, physician assistants (PAs) and nurse practitioners would no longer be legally allowed to prescribe hydrocodone combination drugs.

If the recommendation is accepted, it would be more difficult for patients to obtain refills on hydrocodone combination drugs. Refills without a new prescription, faxed prescriptions and prescriptions called in by telephone would all be banned. Only written prescriptions from a doctor would be allowed.

If the recommendation is adopted, much stricter scrutiny on the purchasing, prescribing, retailing and use of these medications can also be expected. Prosecutions and administrative actions can also be expected to follow.

The FDA is also debating the DEA’s request to limit prescriptions of hydrocodone combination pills to a 90-day supply instead of the current regulations which permit five refills within six months.

Arguments Heard Against the Reclassification.

According to an article in The New York Times, many opponents spoke against the recommendation. Advocates for nursing home patients argued that weak and elderly residents with chronic pain would have to make a difficult trip to see a doctor just to get a prescription refilled. Click here to read The New York Times article.

Some committee members questioned if there was another option to consider versus changing the scheduling. They questioned whether greater use of e-prescribing and Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs, as well as better education efforts for clinicians and patients would be better solutions for the drug abuse epidemic.

Now it remains to be seen how the FDA will interpret the advisory committee’s recommendation.

Florida’s Prescription Drug Abuse Epidemic.

Florida law enforcement including the DEA, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and Department of Health (DOH) all seem to be having a hard time keeping up with prescription drug abuse in Florida.

We have written a number of blogs on the abuse of narcotics in Florida. See our blog on a fake prescription ring busted in Osceola County, and a Central Florida nurse accused of illegally obtaining prescriptions for painkillers, for example. Check our website for similar blogs.

Pharmacists, pharmacies, legal distributors and physicians are often too caught up in the frenzy to stem prescription drug abuse and to eliminate “pill mills.”

Call Experienced Health Law Attorneys for Your Legal Needs.

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.
Sound Off.

As a health care professional, do you think hydrocodone products should be labeled as a schedule II controlled substance? What are the positive and negative effects of this decision? Please leave any thoughtful comment below.
Sources:

Fiore, Kristina. “FDA Panel Votes for Tighter Controls on Vicodin.” MedPage Today. (January 25, 2013). From: http://bit.ly/X8qlsu

Tavernise, Sabrina. “F.D.A. Likely to Add Limits on Painkillers.” The New York Times. (January 25, 2013). From: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/26/health/fda-vote-on-restricting-hydrocodone-products-vicodin.html?_r=0
About the Authors: Lance O. Leider is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law.  He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice.  Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area.  www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.
“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

You Must Challenge Overpayment Demands from Medicare and Medicaid Audits

6 Indest-2008-3By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

We have recently received numerous communications from health care professionals, including physicians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, mental health counselors, durable medical equipment (DME) providers, assisted living facilities (ALFs), group homes, and psychologists, who have been placed on prepayment review after failing to challenge Medicare or Medicaid audit results. The problem is that these providers, once placed on prepayment review, have their payments held up for many months and are often forced out of business. Sometimes it appears that this may actually be the goal of the auditing contractor or agency.

What Happens on Prepayment Review.

Failing to challenge, follow-up on, and appeal any adverse audit determinations can be very detrimental. An error rate in excess of fifteen percent (15%) will usually result in the provider being placed on prepayment review. While on prepayment review, the provider will be required to submit the documentation for medical records by mail to support each claim submitted and have that claim and its supporting medical records’ documentation audited, prior to any claims being paid. Often the auditing agency will come back to the provider again and again to demand additional information and documentation on claims instead of immediately processing them. This can hold up processing of the claim for months. Often the resulting termination of income flow will force the provider out of business. This saves the government lots of money, because the provider has then provided services to Medicare or Medicaid recipients for many months without ever getting paid for it.

These are some of the reasons why we recommend that physicians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, podiatrists, optometrists, psychologists, mental health counselors, respiratory therapists, and others always hire the Board Certified Health Law Attorney experienced in audits from the very beginning.

A Real-Life Example of the Trouble Caused by a Medicare Audit.

In one case we know of, a therapist was audited by Medicare. The audit by the Medicare administrative contractor (MAC) requested only 30 records. The therapist provided copies of the records he thought the auditors wanted. He did not number the pages or keep an exact copy of what he provided. The MAC came back and denied one percent (1%) of the claims audited. However, since the amount demanded back by the MAC was only a few thousand dollars, the therapist never hired an attorney and never challenged the results. Instead of retaining legal counsel and appealing the results, the therapist paid the entire amount, thinking that was the easy way out.

Unfortunately, because of the high error rate, the MAC immediately placed the therapist on prepayment review of all claims, assuming the prior audit had disclosed fraud or intentional false coding. Every claim the provider submitted from that point on had to be submitted on paper with supporting medical records sent in by mail. The MAC refused to make a decision on any of the claims, instead, holding them and requesting additional documentation and information from time to time. The therapist currently has most of his claims tied up in prepayment review, some for as long as five months with no decision. No decision means no review or appeal rights.

The therapist conveyed to me that he recently contacted the auditor to attempt to obtain decisions on some of his claims so that he could at least begin the appeal process if the claims are denied. He advised me that the auditor at the MAC expressed surprise that he was still in business.

Challenge Improperly Denied or Reduced Claims.

These situations are very unfair and unjust, especially to smaller health care providers. The reduced cash flow even for a month or two may be enough to drive some small providers out of business. Larger health care providers have vast resources sufficient to handle such audit situations on a routine basis. They may have similar problems but are better equipped and have more resources to promptly handle it. Rather than immediately pay whatever amount is demanded on an audit and waive any appeal/review rights, the provider should review each claim denied or reduced and challenge the ones that have been improperly denied or reduced. Otherwise you may wind up with a high error rate which will cause you to be placed into prepayment review. Once placed in prepayment review, it is difficult to get out of it. Often it takes six months or longer.

Don’t Get Caught Up in the Audit Cycle.

Another reason to challenge overpayment demands as a result of an audit is because the audit contractors will keep you on an audit cycle for a number of future audits if they are successful in obtaining any sort of significant recovery from you on the initial audit. This is similar to what happens if your tax return is audited by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recovers a significant payment from you because you did not have the documentation to support your deductions, you can expect to be audited for at least the next two years.

The value of competent legal representation at the beginning of an audit cannot be overestimated. It is usually long after the audit is over, and the time to appeal the audit agency’s findings has passed, that the health care provider realizes he should have retained an audit consultation.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late; Consult with a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Medicare and Medicaid Issues Now.


The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent healthcare providers in Medicare audits, ZPIC audits and RAC audits throughout Florida and across the U.S. They also represent physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals and other healthcare providers and institutions in Medicare and Medicaid investigations, audits, recovery actions and termination from the Medicare or Medicaid Program.

For more information please visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001.

Comments?

Have you ever been audited? What was the process like? Did you retain legal counsel to help with the process? Was having legal assistance worth it? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999. 

Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

In Treatment: Physicians and the Professionals Resource Network (PRN)

In an industry so concerned with serving others, physicians and other health professionals sometimes find that they are the ones being pushed towards a treatment program. According to a recent study, alcohol abuse is the most common reason for enrolling in a physician health program. Other reasons for treatment included opioid, stimulant and sedative abuse. However, not all physicians and health professionals that are referred to a health program are in need of rehabilitation services.

The Florida Department of Health’s Impaired Practitioners Program is administered by the Professionals Resource Network (PRN) and the Intervention Project for Nurses (IPN). IPN is responsible for all nurses and works with and through the Florida Board of Nursing. The Florida Board of Medicine and all other professional licensing boards in the DOH have contracted with and use the services provided by Professionals Resource Network (PRN).

We routinely work with physicians who are accused by employers, hospitals, competitors, terminated employees, or supervisors in graduate medical education (GME) programs of impairment due to drug or alcohol abuse, of mental impairment, of being a “disruptive physician” or of sexual boundary issues.

Our firm has extensive experience in representing physicians and other professionals accused of drug abuse, alcohol impairment, mental impairment and sexual boundary issue, as well as in dealing with the Professionals Resource Network (PRN), its advantages and disadvantages, its contracts, its personnel, and its policies and procedures.

We are also quite familiar with the interactions between PRN and the Board of Medicine. We have had a great deal of experience in working with the different psychiatrists, certified addictions professionals (CAPs) and evaluators which PRN routinely employs to perform its initial evaluations on physicians.

Our clients routinely include physicians and other health professionals who are alleged to be impaired because of drug abuse, alcohol abuse or mental or physical impairments. We routinely are consulted by physicians who have a DUI conviction, who have a positive result on a drug or alcohol test or who are accused of addiction or theft of drugs because of discrepancies in drug inventories, or for any other number of reasons.

We routinely consult with, advise and defend physicians facing all of the foregoing types of problems. It is crucial that the physician obtain qualified legal representation and advice immediately before speaking to hospital administrators or medical staff leaders about the matter, before giving a urinalysis sample, before reporting to PRN and before going for an evaluation by a psychiatrist or a certified addictions professional (CAP).

Furthermore, these types of allegations made against a physician are extremely serious because they are usually treated by the Department of Health as “Priority 1” or “Fast Track” offenses. This means that the charges against the physician will usually be automatically considered for an Emergency Suspension Order (ESO) by the Department of Health. The investigation will be “fast and dirty” with a requirement that the DOH investigator have the entire investigation completed and the report in Tallahassee within 45 days. Then, unless a qualified, experienced attorney is able to immediately produce reliable documentation and other evidence showing the physician is not impaired and is not a threat to patient health or safety, the Surgeon General (formerly the Secretary of the Department of Health) will issue an Emergency Suspension Order (ESO). This suspends the physician’s license until all proceedings are completed and finalized (which often takes a year or more). The physician will be unable to work as a physician during any period when his or her license is suspended and, even if he or she has a license in another jurisdiction, since the suspension is a public record that is widely published and other jurisdictions are notified, he or she may find the license in the other states is also suspended.

However, even where the physician may actually have committed the offense, there are a number of administrative and procedural measures which an experienced health care attorney, one familiar with Board of Medicine and PRN cases, may be able to use to avoid a suspension. This will also prevent the matter from becoming public until much later in the process.

For the innocent physician or health professional, an experienced attorney familiar with such matters may be able to obtain additional drug testing, polygraph (lie detector) testing, scientific evidence, expert witnesses, evaluations by certified addictions professionals, character references, or other evidence which shows innocence.

PRN does have some advantages for the truly impaired physician. It provides an avenue of rehabilitation, monitoring and treatment for a truly impaired physician. It is an invaluable tool to assist a physician with a real problem to retain his ability to practice. Some physicians should not be practicing except through PRN. However, PRN also has some serious disadvantages and may, among other things, cause the physician to lose clinical privileges in a hospital; lose an employment position; require the physician to enter into long term inpatient rehabilitation; cause the physician to undertake extremely expensive treatment counseling and therapy; and impose very onerous burdens of time and money on the physician, as well as job limitations. Additionally, PRN routinely relies on Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and its particular philosophy of coping with substance abuse, even though there may be competing schools of thought on the subject, some of which are equally or more effective.

In many cases, the physician who is the victim of a termination action by an employer, a complaint by a hospital or a complaint against his or her professional license involving allegations of drug abuse, alcohol abuse, or impairment, may view PRN as an easy way to avoid discipline. This is a complete fallacy. Such an apparent easy way out should be avoided at all costs.

If the physician is not truly an impaired provider or addicted to drugs or alcohol, there may be other alternatives that do not involve discipline. PRN is not “easy” and this is not an easy way out.

It is extremely important that before you “self-report” to PRN you contact an experienced health care attorney for advice.
If the physician is not truly an impaired provider or addicted to drugs or alcohol, there may be other alternatives that do not involve discipline.

It is extremely important that before you agree to go to the initial evaluation by a physician (or sometimes a psychologist or mental health counselor) specializing in addictionology (as PRN always requires), obtain legal advice.

Before you give any blood, urine, hair samples or other drug or alcohol testing, you should contact us for advice. We have access to the same or similar testing labs as PRN. We can arrange to have you tested first so that you will know whether or not you should have any concerns. For example, did you know that the use of certain prohibited drugs (including cocaine) will leave a residue in your hair which can be detected for months or longer after use? Are you aware that there are now tests being used which can tell if you have had one regular size alcoholic beverage within the past thirty (30) days? There are even tests being used now to test health care professionals for the illicit use of anesthetic gases such as Aldan.

We are consulted by just as many physicians who want to get out of the PRN Program after they agreed to enter it without proper legal advice. Even though at the time it seemed like a good idea, or the physician incorrectly thought there was no choice in the matter, it turns out to be a big mistake for that person. In most cases, it is not possible to leave the PRN Program after agreeing to it without giving up your medical license. And this can have some extremely adverse consequences for a physician, including a report to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB), exclusion from the Medicare and Medicaid Programs and debarment from all federal government contracting.

We are told that 60 day, 90 day, and longer periods of inpatient drug or alcohol treatment may be required before the physician can return to work. Physicians accepted into PRN usually must sign a five year contract agreeing to monitoring, weekly counseling meetings, regular psychiatric visits, random urinalysis testing (with a mandatory call in every day of your life for the five year contract period), mandatory notification of all employers and hospitals where you have clinical privileges that you are in PRN, a strict prohibition on drinking any alcoholic beverage or taking any medication (even over the counter medications) without the prior approval of PRN, possible loss of your privilege to prescribe or administer narcotics, a possible requirement that you only work under the supervision of another physician, or other possible requirements.

The bottom line is: If you are accused of drug impairment, alcohol impairment, sexual boundary issues, sexual misconduct, or of being mentally or physically impaired, immediately contact an attorney experienced with PRN and Board of Medicine matters before doing anything else. Don’t risk losing your livelihood by taking the apparent only way out. There may be other options available for you. For more information about PRN and other legal matters concerning health professionals, visit www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Medical Negligence – An Accidental Overdose of Prescription Pain Pills Can Lead to Lawsuits

GFI Blog LabelBy George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law and Carole C. Schriefer, R.N., J.D., The Health Law Firm

In February 2009, a 30-year-old male patient was prescribed, all together, 180 pills of Dilaudid and Xanax from a South Florida pain clinic. Sometime within the next 24 hours the patient died of what medical examiners ruled an overdose. According to the American Association for Justice, the patient’s family then sued the pain management clinic alleging the clinic’s physician prescribed a lethal overdose of the drugs and the defendant was liable for damages resulting from the patient’s murder. In the lawsuit, the jury awarded the plaintiff more than $5.33 million.

Physicians and Business Owners Liable for Medical Negligence.

According to an article in American Medical News, of the pharmaceutical-related overdoses in 2010, seventy-four percent (74%) were unintentional. As prescription drug overdoses rise across the country, we are seeing some physicians and business owners held liable for medical negligence.

For example, in May 2012, an Alabama jury ruled a widower to receive $500,000 after he sued his wife’s physician. His wife died of an accidental overdose after being prescribed a number of narcotic pain medications. In April 2012, a woman was awarded $1.9 million after she sued her family physician claiming he over prescribed her methadone, which led to brain damage after she stopped breathing, according to American Medical News.

Click here to read the entire article from American Medical News.

Protecting Your Business and License.

Health care professionals need to pay close attention to patients who request pain medication. Being proactive about prescription management can also deter lawsuits or help in doctors’ defense if they are sued. Physicians must make sure their records meet all requirements of state laws and regulations. In cases where a patient has been “doctor-shopping” in order to abuse pain pills, we see state disciplinary investigations initiated against each physician who prescribed that individual medication. In most cases, these physicians were unaware of the other prescribers. Disciplinary actions such as these can often be defended when the physician has taken the proper safeguards.

Click here to read legal tips for physicians to manage pain patients.

Drug Monitoring Programs are Here to Stay.

The growing epidemic has some states developing drug monitoring programs to track drug seekers.

In Florida, a bill that would require doctors to check with the state’s drug database before writing a prescription for addictive medications passed in a House panel on March 19, 2013. Recently, legislators in California, Pennsylvania and Kentucky are contemplating moves to tighten monitoring and prescribing of controlled substances. Click here to read a blog on the possible new actions in these states.

Health professionals should take note, these prescription drug monitoring programs can, and will be, used as a prosecution tool.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Investigations of Health Professionals and Providers.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, CRNAs, pain management doctors, dentists, pharmacists, psychologists and other health providers in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations, Medicare investigations, Medicaid 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.

Comments?

Do you think physicians and business owners should be held liable for medical negligence in cases of an accidental overdose? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Department of Justice. “Thirty-Two Indicted in Broward and Palm Beach Counties in Second Coordinated Pill Mill Takedown.” Department of Justice. (August 23, 2011). From: http://www.justice.gov/usao/fls/PressReleases/110823-04.html

Gallegos, Alicia. “Physician Liability: When an Overdose Brings a Lawsuit.” American Medical News. (March 4, 2013). From: http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com/uploads/AMN_Overdose%20Lawsuits.PDF

LaMendola, Bob. “Pain Clinic Boss Jeffrey George Pleads Guilty to Murder.” Sun Sentinel. (August 29, 2011). From: http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/2011-08-29/health/fl-hk-jeff-george-pleads-guilty-20110829_1_pain-clinic-cynthia-cadet-george-twins

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. 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.

Carole C. Schriefer is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

 

The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Florida’s Strike Force Raids Pain Management Physicians

Florida is reported to have one of the worst prescription drug abuse problems in the country. Because of this issue, pain management physicians have been under increasing scrutiny and attack by federal and state agencies.  If you are a pain management physician or you work in a pain a management clinic, you need to be aware of the measures that state and federal agencies are taking against doctors who practice pain management and the owners of pain management clinics.

A news release sent out by the Florida Department of Health (DOH) this summer discusses “inspections” of physicians’ offices across the state, allegedly to ensure compliance with Florida’s new prescription drug law (House Bill 7095).  However, many of these may be more aptly termed as “raids.”  These raids, under the guise of being inspections, have resulted in a massive quantity of narcotics being seized from clinics and physicians’ offices by the Strike Force. It is claimed that no search warrants are necessary as the Strike Force states it is performing an “administrative inspection.” The pain management physicians targeted by these inspections are identified based on their purchasing, prescribing and dispensing levels.

Often these “inspections” will include Department of Health Investigators, Florida Department of Law Enforcement Special Agents, local police and law enforcement agents, and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Special Agents.

  •  Our primary concern and warning to the physician or owner is to not talk to any investigators or inspectors, but call your personal attorney immediately. Have the investigator or inspector talk to your attorney. All communications should be with and through your attorney.
  • If you are requested to “voluntarily” relinquish (give up) your DEA registration or your medical license or other professional license, do not do this.  It will not help you and it will make every aspect of your case more difficult to defend.
  • Do not make any statement (oral or written) or allow yourself to be interviewed.
  • Obtain the complete names, addresses, titles and agencies for each agent there.  Obtain their business cards (which they should have).
  • Do not volunteer up any documents, items or information.

To read more about inspections from the document released by the Florida Department of Health click here.

If your office has been “inspected” and you need legal representation, you may call and speak to one of our health attorneys at (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001.

Number of Oxycodone-Related Deaths Down in Florida

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

It looks like Florida’s prescription drug legislation, the statewide prescription drug monitoring database and the prescription drug crackdowns by law enforcement may be working, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE). The FDLE states in its semi-annual report, oxycodone-related deaths statewide dropped between January and June of 2012, compared to the same period of time in 2011. A look at the national numbers shows that the number of people abusing prescription drugs is also down.

Florida and National Numbers.

In the first half of 2012, there were 759 oxycodone-related deaths in Florida, according to the Orlando Sentinel. That number is down from 1,058 during the same time period a year before. The Orlando Sentinel states that nationwide 7 million people abused prescription drugs in 2010. By 2011, that number had dropped to 6.1 million. Studies also show prescription drug use among young adults ages 18 to 25 is also on the decline. The Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation Director believes these numbers are down because young people are realizing these drugs are dangerous and can be deadly.

Click here to read the entire article from the Orlando Sentinel.

Florida Cracks Down on Prescription Drug Abuse.

Previously, Florida was known as a state where drug addicts and dealers could easily find a pill mill or go doctor shopping to get prescription drugs. In the past two years, Florida state leaders and law enforcement officials have stepped up regulations and made serious crackdowns on doctors, pharmacists and pharmacies.

In April 2013, a Lake Mary doctor was sentenced to 25 years in prison for trafficking prescription drugs. Click here to read that story. In December 2012, a fake prescription drug ring was busted in Osceola County. To read that story, click here. In June 2012, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and Florida law enforcement announced operation “Pill Street Blues” targeting doctors and clinic owners across Florida. Click here to read more.

Health Care Professional Must Stay Ahead of Patients with Chronic Pain.

Even though the number of people abusing prescription drugs is down, state regulatory boards, private certification boards and federal agencies are not going to ease up. Many physicians in practice today are eschewing multi-disciplinary approaches to treating chronic pain in favor of monotherapies with narcotic medications.

These physicians do this at their own peril. In our practice we see many physicians in trouble with state medical boards and law enforcement officials because of their prescribing practices. If you treat patients with chronic pain it is imperative that you stay ahead of them. Click here to read a blog on legal tips for health care professionals to manage pain patients.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Investigations of Health Professionals and Providers.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, CRNAs, pain management doctors, dentists, pharmacists, psychologists and other health providers in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) investigations, FBI investigations, Medicare investigations, Medicaid 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.

Comments?

Do you think the new legislation, the state prescription drug monitoring database and the crackdowns by law enforcement are making a difference in the war against prescription drugs? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Pavuk, Amy. “‘We Can Stop This Epidemic,’ CDC Boss Says at Rx-Drug Abuse Summit in Orlando.” Orlando Sentinel. (April 2, 2013). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/os-prescription-drug-abuse-summit-20130402,0,4693169.story

Pavuk, Amy. “Drug-Related Deaths Plunge in First Half of 2012.” Orlando Sentinel. (March 25, 2013). From: http://www.orlandosentinel.com/news/local/breakingnews/os-drug-deaths-down-20130325,0,6750345.story

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Orlando Health Attorney Featured in Latest Issue of Medical Economics

Orlando, Fla. – March 15, 2012 – George F. Indest III, President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, shares his knowledge of health law in the March 14 issue of Medical Economics. Mr. Indest was interviewed and quoted for an article concerning legal advice for primary care physicians who prescribe painkillers. In the article he provided information based on his experience in defending physicians charged with over-prescribing with the DEA and Florida DOH, Board of Medicine.

The article, “5 ways to avoid over-prescribing allegations,” includes tips written by Mr. Indest for physicians to follow if they practice pain management. The article can be read in its entirety here.

Mr. Indest is a well-known attorney specializing in the representation of health professionals and health care providers throughout Florida. His practice encompasses all aspects of health law, including pain management and pain medicine physician and clinic defense, defense of professional licensing cases, representation in investigations, defense in credentialing matters, Medicare and Medicaid audits, formation of corporations and limited liability companies (LLCs), Board of Medicine hearings, peer review actions, clinical privileges hearings, representation of medical students, and other matters of health care law and legal representation of health care professionals.

In 1999, Mr. Indest started The Health Law Firm, which has three Florida offices in Altamonte Springs, Orlando, and Pensacola. A former Navy JAG Corps attorney, he has practiced law for over 30 years.

For more information about The Health Law Firm visit http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com.

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About The Health Law Firm
The Health Law Firm was established in 1999, bringing together a team of experienced attorneys with decades of work in the legal and healthcare fields. With offices in Altamonte Springs, Orlando and Pensacola, Florida, the firm represents healthcare providers, including hospitals, nursing homes, physicians, dentists, mental health professionals and other licensed health professionals and entities. For more information about The Health Law Firm, visit http://www.thehealthlawfirm.com.

For additional information contact:
Kara Large
Office: (407) 331-6620, ext. 219
Cell: (407) 921-4322

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