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How to handle a letter from the Office of Professional Misconduct

For a doctor, receiving a letter about a complaint from the New York Office of Professional Misconduct (OPMC) can be a distressing situation. It indicates a patient was unhappy enough with the services provided that he or she filed a complaint. Furthermore, it indicates an investigation process is about to begin.

It is important that any letter from the OPMC is taken seriously. The result of an OPMC inquiry could mean revocation or restriction of a doctor's license to practice medicine. Doctors should understand the process and respond accordingly.

The process

When a doctor receives a letter, the complaint has been filed and the process has begun. In the letter, the OPMC is alerting the doctor about what the complaint is and giving a timeline of what will happen next. The doctor is given a chance to submit a response, including any information that was requested. In the meantime, the OPMC begins its investigation.

The OPMC will consider all evidence included in the complaint and provided by the doctor to make a ruling. It will either be dismissed or presented to an investigation committee, if sufficient evidence is discovered. The committee then makes a recommendation, which could be: a hearing, an additional investigation, a case dismissal, or non-disciplinary actions.

If sufficient evidence is not found, the investigation is terminated, the case is closed, and complainant and the doctor are notified by mail.

If a hearing or an additional investigation is recommended, the doctor will have to provide more information and possibly appear before a committee of the Board for Professional Medical Conduct. The hearing committee issues a finding and orders a penalty in cases involving guilt. This part of the process can take months to complete.

What a doctor should do

When a doctor receives a letter from the OPMC, it is imperative that he or she does not miss the deadline for submitting a response. Doctors should also report it to their insurance providers because attorney and other related expenses may be covered. Any requests should be handled promptly, and evidence should be gathered if a conference is required.

Any complaint should be taken seriously because it can have serious consequences if the Board decides the doctor was in the wrong. It is important a doctor does not panic but that he or she maintains a professional approach to the whole process. An effective attorney is also crucial to protect a medical license and professional future.

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