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Anatomy of an OPMC investigation

What happens when a patient, co-worker or other medical professional files a complaint about a physician's work? If the complaint involves allegations of misconduct, the New York Health Department's Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC) and state Board for Professional Medical Conduct will generally work in conjunction to investigate the complaint. These investigations can result in criminal charges and revocation of one's medical license. As such, it is important to understand how the process works.

Step one: Review and investigation

First, the OPMC will review the complaint. The OPMC will move forward with an investigation if misconduct is present. The process often includes interviews of the individual that filed the complaint as well as other physicians and those who may be involved in the incident that resulted in the complaint.

The investigators will likely reach out to the physician. The state licensing board expects those who hold a medical license in the state to cooperate with the investigation.

Step two: Committee involvement

If the investigation results in evidence to support the allegation of misconduct, the case will move forward to a committee. The committee is normally composed of two physicians and a layperson. This committee will review the evidence and recommend either a hearing, additional investigation, dismissal, warning or consultation.

It is important to note that physicians are within their rights to hire legal counsel to represent their interests during the investigation.

Step three: Resolution

If the committee finds the physician is innocent, it will terminate the investigation and close the case. If the committee finds a hearing is required, the case will go before another committee. This process will likely involve testimony of the physician as well as calling witnesses. If the committee does not rule in the physician's favor, an appeal is available.

Penalties can include revocation of the physician's medical license, suspension, license limitation, additional training requirements and other reprimands like a fine and community service. Further monitoring in the form of a probationary period is also possible.

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