If your physician assistant license is under investigation, we are here to help. The attorneys of Bertolino LLP are here to protect your reputation and career. A Texas physician assistant license defense lawyer from our firm can help strategize the best course of action to safeguard your livelihood.
Who Oversees the Disciplinary Process for Physician Assistants in Texas?
The Texas Medical Board (TMB) oversees the disciplinary process for physician assistants. The TMB was created to protect the health of the public and uphold their interests. Receiving more than 9,000 complaints each year from patients and healthcare professionals, Texas law requires the TMB to evaluate each claim.
First, the Texas Medical Board must determine if the complaint falls under its jurisdiction. Secondly, they must determine if the allegations violate the Texas Medical Practice Act. If so, then the TMB will conduct a preliminary evaluation.
What Offenses Can Result in Disciplinary Action?
Any violation of the Texas Medical Practice Act can result in disciplinary action. The most common offenses include the following:
- Substance or alcohol abuse
- Failure to provide adequate patient care
- Improper or incomplete documentation of patient records
- Sexual misconduct with a patient
- Practicing while under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Unprofessional conduct
- Negligence or medical malpractice
- Conviction of a crime
- Overprescribing narcotics
- Writing illegal or improper prescriptions to oneself or family members
- Practicing medicine without adequate supervision
- Failure to accurately report information
- Healthcare or insurance fraud
There are many reasons the TMB may take action against a physician assistant. However, the above are the most common infractions.
What Is the TMB’s Enforcement Process Once a Complaint Is Received?
Once a complaint has been filed, the enforcement process is as follows:
- Preliminary evaluation: A preliminary evaluation is conducted to determine if the allegations violate the Texas Medical Practice Act and if there is ample evidence to support the claim.
- Formal investigation: If the TMB feels they have enough evidence to move forward, they will conduct a thorough investigation. The investigative process can be lengthy and, at the conclusion, the allegations against you will either be dismissed or proceed to the next level.
- Quality assurance panel: A quality assurance panel will review your case to determine the next step. The panel may ask for more information, resulting in another investigation; they may recommend settling the claim with the physician assistant through disciplinary action; or they may recommend the case be dismissed.
- Informal resolution: The informal resolution stage is a settlement conference designed to see if the physician assistant is in compliance with the rules and regulations of their trade. If the panel believes there is ample evidence to support a violation of the Medical Practice Act, they may offer a disciplinary action or a non-disciplinary remedial plan. If they find no wrongdoing, they may recommend dismissal.
- Administrative hearing and formal resolution: If an agreement cannot be reached at the informal resolution panel, the TMB may pursue a formal administrative hearing with the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH). You are not obligated to accept the recommendation at the informal conference. If you reject the offer, then your matter will proceed to a formal hearing.
- Appeal: After a formal hearing, the judge will issue a proposal for decision to TMB which will contain proposed findings of fact and conclusions of law. TMB will then make the final decision regarding the outcome of the case. If you disagree with the outcome, you have the right to have the judicial court system review the TMB’s actions. However, you must have legal grounds to file a petition for judicial review in district court and follow the proper procedures for doing so. Simply disagreeing with the panel’s decision is not enough.
- Compliance: Some of the disciplinary actions the administrative panel may order include restricting your license or requiring participation in a rehabilitation program. A compliance officer is put in place to ensure you adhere to the terms of the panel’s ruling. Once you complete the terms of your order or remedial plan, you will receive notice that your complaint has been completed and closed.
Finally, if the allegations against you are not dismissed, the disciplinary actions ordered will be reported by TMB to the National Practitioner Data Bank.
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Do I Still Need a Lawyer if My Offense was Minor?
Regardless of the severity of the offense, you need a physician assistant license defense attorney. Even minor infractions can result in disciplinary action. Any disciplinary action must be reported to the National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB).
The NPDB is a public database, and disciplinary action reported there is often reported to news agencies. The public display of disciplinary action can harm your reputation and career. No matter how minor the discipline or sanctions may be, it is visible to the public and can impact your livelihood.
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What Should I Do if an Investigator from the Texas Medical Board Contacts Me?
Texas law requires that you cooperate with any investigator from the Texas Medical Board. However, you have the right to representation. An investigator may make an impromptu visit to your home or office. While you may feel pressured to answer their questions right away, you have the right to defer questions to your lawyer or have them present during the interview.
Can I Appeal the Texas Medical Board’s Ruling?
If the Texas Medical Board issues an unfavorable decision in your case, you have the right to file a petition for judicial review in state district court. However, your reasons must meet one of the following grounds for an appeal:
- The ruling was not based on the evidence presented during the hearing
- There was a lack of substantial evidence
- Errors were committed during the investigative or hearing process
- The evidence was erroneous
Appealing the TMB’s decision is not a second chance at a hearing. Instead, it is meant to right any wrongs committed during the hearings process, so the burden is high for overturning the TMB’s decision.
Can I Continue to Practice During the Appeals Process?
The ability to continue practicing during the appeals process depends on a few factors. If the TMB suspends, revokes, or restricts your license, you will not be able to continue to practice as a physician assistant.
However, you can ask your attorney if you qualify for injunctive relief from the state district court where the petition for judicial review is filed. Injunctive relief is a special type of request that may allow you to have your physician assistant license temporarily restored while your petition for judicial review is pending.
Contact a License Defense Attorney in Texas to Schedule a Consultation Today
Our firm has extensive experience defending physician assistants. We are located near the Texas Medical Board and frequently help medical professionals maintain their healthcare-oriented licenses so they can continue to practice. At Bertolino LLP, our goal is to protect your professional license and career.