Virginia Medical Board Wins Appeal Concerning Doctor’s Revoked Medical License

4 Indest-2009-3By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On March 21, 2017, a Virginia appellate court ruled that a doctor’s state medical license was properly revoked for various reasons including allowing medical students to perform unauthorized medical procedures. The appellate court said the doctor’s due process rights weren’t violated because he had three months to prepare for an administrative hearing before the Virginia Board of Medicine.

Medical License Was Properly Revoked.

When the doctor originally presented his case in the trial court, the trial judge ruled that Dr. John Hagmann’s constitutional rights were violated. The trial court decided that when the Virginia Board of Medicine denied the doctor’s second request for a postponement of an administrative proceeding it erred. The trial court judge reversed the Virginia Board of Medicine’s decision revoking his license.

The court of appeals later decided that the trial judge’s decision was erroneous and reversed it. The appellate court based its ruling on the fact that Dr. Hagmann had already received one continuance and had more than three months to prepare for his hearing. According to the appellate court, the medical board’s denial of a second continuance didn’t violate Dr. Hagmann’s due process rights.

While teaching courses at a federal military school in 2012 and 2013, Dr. Hagmann allegedly allowed the students to perform invasive medical procedures on himself and on each other. These medical procedures were allegedly unapproved and had no medicinal or therapeutic purposes, according to the medical board.

According to the court’s opinion, Dr. Hagmann was also accused of encouraging students to use alcohol and various drugs in unapproved and dangerous ways. It indicated that he also provided medical treatment, including writing prescriptions, without keeping adequate records.

To read the court’s opinion in full, click here.

Conclusion.

The Virginia appellate court decided that the circuit court, the lower court in the case, erred by substituting its discretion for the Board’s discretion. However, the court of appeal also held that the circuit court did not err in rejecting Dr. Hagmann’s claims that the Board violated his due process rights.

Therefore, the court of appeal reversed the circuit court’s ruling and remanded with directions that the decision of the Medical Board revoking Dr. Hagmann’s license to practice medicine should be reinstated.

To learn more about the consequences of having your professional medical license revoked, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Author’s Comments:

The problem I have with this decision is that the board of medicine usually takes years to investigate such cases. Once the charges are filed, they want to rush to a hearing, often without giving the defense adequate time to prepare. I have experienced this time and time again. It behooves the defense to make a clear record of the time that the port of medicine has had to prepare, the prejudice that will occur to the defense, and the lack of prejudice to the board.

Additionally, since there was a trial in a trial court decision, the trial court judge was in a much better position to weigh the credibility of the witnesses and make the decisions that were made. In a case where there is only been one prior continuance granted, for the appellate court to reverse the trial court judge, seems unfair to me, especially since the result is the revocation of the Doctor’s license. I often refer to this as the “death sentence” for the Doctor’s career. There isn’t a harsher sentence that a board of medicine can give.

Contact Health Law Attorneys With Experience Handling Licensing Issues.

If you have had a license suspended or revoked, or are facing imminent action against your license, it is imperative that you 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 physicians, dentists, nurses, medical groups, clinics, and other healthcare providers in personal and facility licensing issues. To contact The Health Law Firm please call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 and visit our website at http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Sources:

Kang, Peter. “Va. Med Board Wins Appeal Over Doc’s License Revocation.” Law360. (March 21, 2017). 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. http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

 

KeyWords: Legal representation for licensing issues, medical license defense attorney, legal representation for revoked license, legal representation for Board of Medicine investigation, Board of Medicine investigation defense attorney, medical board appeals, legal representation for administrative law hearing, administrative hearing defense attorney, legal counsel for Board of Medicine hearing, legal representation for Department of Health investigations, Department of Health investigation defense attorney, appeal of revocations, legal representation for Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Hearings, administrative litigation defense attorney, legal representation for Federal Administrative Hearings, legal representation for Formal Administrative Hearings and Informal Administrative Hearings, legal representation for revocation hearings, The Health Law Firm reviews, reviews of The Health Law Firm

“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 © 2017 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

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Medical Students, Residents and Fellows Need to Properly Disclose Medical Disabilities in advance of problems

4 Indest-2009-3By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

We are often retained to provide legal representation to medical school students, residents and fellows who run into difficulties and have disputes with their medical schools or programs. This may be after they are required to repeat a year, terminated from the program, or have other adverse action taken against them. When this occurs and we investigate the details, occasionally we find that the individual we are representing has a medical history of mental health issues that may have caused or contributed to the problems they are facing.

In many situations, the troubles that are faced could have been avoided if the student or resident had disclosed their medical condition to the school, program, or institution, and requested reasonable accommodations. However, after the adverse action has been taken it is often (but not always) too late to do this.

Use the institution’s forms to report a medical condition or disability.

All major medical schools, universities, residency programs, and hospitals in the United States have offices or departments to receive reports of medical conditions and disabilities and to assist the student/resident in obtaining support, resources and reasonable accommodations to help the student/resident be successful. However, if the institution is never notified of the medical condition or disability and is never given the opportunity to provide reasonable accommodations, then the student/resident has failed to take advantage of an opportunity that exists which may have helped prevent the adverse action that was taken.

If you have a medical condition or disability of any kind, especially one such as depression, learning disability, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, ADHD, a disease or illness which may affect your performance, or other condition that classifies as an illness or disability, you should be sure that this is diagnosed by the appropriate physician. You must also have that physician formulate reasonable accommodations that your institution, program, school or hospital can take that would help you to accommodate your condition. You should then complete the forms that your institution uses to report this and request reasonable accommodations to help you.

Don’t fear stigma from reporting a medical condition or illness.

We most often find that our clients have failed to report a medical condition or illness and request reasonable accommodations out of a fear that their program, professors, attendings and colleagues will discriminate against them and see them in a lesser light. Actually, the opposite is true. If a medical student our resident is failing academically, is unable to pass exams, or does not appear to be able to handle clinical rotations, it is more likely that the institution will feel that the person does not have the capability or motivation to succeed. However, by disclosing the medical condition or disability, this helps to explain such matters.

 

Illegal to discriminate based on disability or illness.

There are a number of federal laws and often state laws which protect a student or resident who has a medical disability or illness against discrimination. Additionally, almost all major colleges, universities and institutions have policies and procedures in place which prevent this. However, if the resident or student has not disclosed the medical condition or disability to anyone, there can be no argument made that the person was discriminated against because of this. Therefore, disclosure and a request for reasonable accommodation may be a big benefit in challenging adverse actions.

 

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys Representing Medical Students, Residents and Fellows.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents medical students, residents and fellows who run into difficulties and have disputes with their medical schools or programs. We also represent other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving the DEA, 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 http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

 

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. http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Legal representation for medical students, legal representation for residents, legal representation for fellows, legal representation for disputes with medical programs and institutions, investigation by National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME), United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), USMLE preparation course, USMLE hearings, USMLE appeals, foreign medical student defense lawyer, medical graduate defense attorney, defense lawyer for doctors, legal representation fro physicians, residents and intern legal representation, medical student attorney, medical resident lawyer, medical intern lawyer, civil proceeding, criminal proceeding, administrative proceeding, medical administrative hearings, administrative law, medical student legal defense counsel, medical resident lawyer, medical resident defense attorney, medical intern lawyer, medical intern attorney, accused of irregular behavior, The Health Law Firm reviews

“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 © 2017 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

Texas Appeals Court Affirms$1.37 Million in Sanctions Against Doctor who Sued Hospital Former Employers

4 Indest-2009-3By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On November 16, 2016, an appeals court in Texas affirmed a $1.37 million sanction against a doctor. The physician was ordered to pay the fine after the dismissal of a defamation lawsuit he filed against his former employers. The decision affirmed that the actions of his former employers, Baylor College of Medicine (Baylor) and Texas Children’s Hospital, did not cause the litigation fees which the court assessed to the doctor as sanctions.

The case had previously made its way up to the Texas Supreme Court, which makes the November 16, 2016, opinion the second time the Texas Fourteenth Court of Appeals has weighed in on the case. Additionally, it is the second time it has held the sanctions were merited for Dr. Rahul K. Nath.

The Back Story of the Case.

According to the opinion, Dr. Nath was employed by Baylor as a plastic surgeon and was affiliated with Texas Children’s Hospital. He was fired in 2004 and in February 2006 filed a lawsuit against his former supervisor at Baylor and Texas Children’s. According to court documents, Dr. Nath had accused his former supervisor of making defamatory statements about him after he stopped working. The alleged defamatory statements included that Dr. Nath had been fired, was unqualified and lacked professional ethics and integrity. (Note: We are just stating what was alleged in the lawsuit.)

To read the opinion in full, click here.

Were the Former Employers Responsible for the Accumulated Attorney and Litigation Fees?

The court was considering whether the behavior of Baylor or Texas Children’s was ultimately responsible for the fees accumulated litigation fees and expenses in the case. Previously, the trial court found that both Texas Children’s and Baylor’s actions had not caused the expenses for which Dr. Nath was sanctioned. The trial court wrote that the amount was appropriate as it was “far less” than the actual fees incurred by either party in defending Dr. Nath’s claims.

On appeal, Dr. Nath argued that the trial court hadn’t held a proper evidentiary inquiry, that it had based its sanctions award on “conclusory and self-serving” affidavits. Dr. Nath claimed that he was wrongly denied discovery in the case. To learn more about Dr. Nath’s challenge, click here.

Despite Dr. Nath’s arguments, the Fourteenth Court disagreed, holding that the trial court followed the exact instructions from the Supreme Court before deciding to impose the sanctions. Additionally, the court found that there was evidence in the record to support the conclusion that neither Texas Children’s nor Baylor’s conduct caused the expenses that were passed on to Dr. Nath as sanctions.

Adequate Supporting Evidence.

The first time the case came before the Fourteenth Court of Appeals, it affirmed the sanctions against Dr. Nath. The high court held that there was evidence to support the trial court’s finding of bad faith and improper purpose on Dr. Nath’s part with regard to certain filings in the case.

Dr. Nath appealed, and the Texas Supreme Court held that the trial court didn’t abuse its discretion in finding the doctor had exercised bad faith and improper purpose in certain filings. The high court remanded it back to the trial court to consider to what extent, if any, Texas Children’s and Baylor’s actions may have “caused the expenses for which recovery is sought.”

After a hearing, the trial court determined that neither employer’s behavior caused the expenses, and again imposed the sanctions against Nath. In appealing that ruling to the Fourteenth Court of Appeals, Dr. Nath argued that the trial court had made procedural errors in hearings and evidence submission in reaffirming the sanctions.

The trial court granted Texas Children’s and Baylor’s motions in June 2010, and also sanctioned Dr. Nath $726,000 for a portion of Texas Children’s fees in defending the suit and $644,500 for a portion of Baylor’s. The Fourteenth Court of Appeals affirmed that ruling, and Dr. Nath appealed to the state Supreme Court.
To learn more about defamatory statements and how to handle such claims, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents pharmacists, pharmacies, physicians, nurses and other health providers in Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) investigations, Medicare Audit defense, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving the DEA, 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.

Sources:

Knaub, Kelly. “Texas Appeals Court Affirms Doc’s $1.3M Sanction.” Law360. (November 16, 2016). Web.

Knaub, Kelly. “Doc To Challenge $1.3M Sanction Before Texas High Court.” Law360. (January 15, 2014). Web.

“Texas Appeals Court Affirms Doc’s $1.3M Sanction.” LexisNexis. (November 16, 2016). Web.

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, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: Legal representation for health care professionals, health law defense attorney, legal representation for defamatory statements against health care professionals, legal representation for defamation lawsuit against a healthcare professional, healthcare litigation defense attorney, legal counsel for health care professionals, Legal representation for clients involved in the health care industry, reviews of The Health Law Firm, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, The Health Law Firm
“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 © 2017 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Hospital Negligence Lawsuit Dropped by Florida High Court

4 Indest-2009-3By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On November 30, 2016, The Florida Supreme Court announced the decision to dismiss a negligence suit filed against a hospital over the death of patient Ashley Lawson.  Lawson escaped from Shands Teaching Hospital and Clinic, Inc.  The Shands psychiatric hospital is now known as the UF Health Shands Psychiatric Hospital and is located in Gainesville, Florida.

The main legal issue in this case was whether the conduct of the hospital was ordinary negligence or was medical negligence (medical malpractice).  In Florida, if the facts alleged constitute a claim for simple negligence, then there are no pre-suit proceedings required, no medical expert witnesses required, and it is usually much easier and much less expensive to try the case.  However, if the facts stated in the suit are medical negligence allegations, then there are a number of procedural hurdles that a plaintiff must overcome.  Additionally, the case is usually much more expensive and time consuming to try.

Patient Was Mentally Ill.

Ashley Lawson was admitted to the hospital on November 1, 2012, because of a psychiatric illness, impulsive behavior, drug abuse and several suicide attempts, according to reports.  According to her estate’s initial jurisdictional brief, Lawson was transferred to the locked impatient unit at Shands for her own safety.

Lawson Allegedly Freed Herself.

According to reports, an employee’s badge and keys were left unattended, which gave Lawson the opportunity to free herself and escape on January 23, 2013.  Lawson died soon after she had escaped.  She was struck and killed by a tractor trailer on Interstate 75.

A Request To Reconsider The Ruling.

On November 15, 2016, the Florida Supreme Court abandoned its denial of a motion from defendant-appellee Shands Teaching Hospital and Clinics, Inc. asking it to reconsider its ruling from September 13, 2016.  The earlier ruling denied a motion for voluntary dismissal filed by the plaintiff, the Estate of Ashley Lawson.  The court’s earlier denials had decided not to dismiss the case by a 4 to 3 split decision, with Chief of Justice Jorge Labarga and Justices Barbara J. Pariente, James F.C. Perry and R. Fred Lewis in the majority and Justices Ricky Polston, Charles Canady and Peggy Quince dissenting.

Since the ruling on November 15, 2016, Lawson’s estate had relinquished its right to file a brief on the merits, noting that the parties are “contractually prohibited from further litigation in this matter.”  This language seems to indicate that a settlement had been reached between the parties.  Shands Hospital filed a motion on November 27, 2016, looking for instructions on its due process rights and its counsel’s duty to proceed.  Shands stated:  “Respondent believes it should be entitled to submit a merits brief to this court and present oral argument since, as this court has made apparent through its orders, it views this case as involving an important issue of statewide impact.”

Where Do You Draw The Line?

This case in particular has raised questions on where the line should be drawn between medical negligence and ordinary negligence.  However, in the motion for reconsideration, Shands Hospital stated that there was no certification of a question of great public importance or a certified district conflict made in the lower court’s decision in the case.

Shands Hospital’s motion to dismiss the case had been denied by the trial court.  Shands then appealed the Florida First District Court of Appeal. The three-judge panel on the Court of Appeal was unable to come up with a definitive result, so the entire Court of Appeal decided to review the case and final reached a 8-6 decision to trump the lower court’s denial.

After that, Lawson’s estate brought the case to the Florida Supreme Court, seeking reversal based on its argument that the First District Court of Appeal’s decision allegedly conflicted with two Fifth District Court of Appeal decisions on what constitutes ordinary negligence versus medical malpractice (medical negligence).  The estate asked for an extension to file its initial merits brief, stating that the parties were discussing a settlement. On July 28, 2016, the estate filed a notice for voluntary dismissal because a deal was in place.

The Supreme Court took the position that the settlement notwithstanding, the Supreme Court should move forward with the case.  Court’s will often do this when they expect that the legal question will come up again and again in the future, unless they go ahead and decide it.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents physicians, nurses and other health providers in investigations, regulatory matters, licensing issues, litigation, inspections and audits involving the DEA, 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.  We represent medical students, interns, residents, and fellows in disputes with their graduate medical education (GME) programs.  We represent clinical professors and instructors in contract disputes, employment disputes, clinical privileges matters and other disputes with their employers.  We often act as the physician’s personal counsel in medical malpractice litigation.

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

Sources:
“Shands Teaching Hospital and Clinic Inc. v. Estate of Ashley Lawson.” FindLaw. (August 28, 2015). Web.

Hale, Nathan. “In Shift, Fla. High Court Drops Hospital Negligence Suit.” Law360. (November 30, 2016). Web.

“Justice Won’t Drop Case In Shands Vista Patients Death.” The Gainesville Sun. (September 16, 2016). Web.

“Court Sides With Hospital In Death of Escaped Patient.” Health News Florida. (August 31, 2015). Web.

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. http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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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 © 2016 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Always Be Certain Your Correspondence Is Professional. Don’t Detract From Your Professional Reputation: 30 Tips (Part 3 of 3)

4 Indest-2009-3By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

This is Part 3 of a 3 part series on this issue.

I continue with my tips for preparing good, professional correspondence.

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.

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 whatever statutes, regulations or governing documents with which you are dealing use (but also, be sure you know what the words and terms mean).

23.    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 you a response must be received aby a ceratin date, you need to make sure it is in the receiving person’s hands by that date, even if you must hand carry it.

24.    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.”

25.    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, as well.  Then be available to receive the return communication(s).  Don’t give telephone numbers you never answer.

26. If you intend to request a formal hearing say “I request a formal hearing.”  If you want a 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.”

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 legal 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 submitted,” or some other professional closing.

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.  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.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys.

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 DEA, 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 http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

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. http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: The Health Law Firm, legal representation for health care physicians, reviews of The Health Law Firm, tips for professional correspondence, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, legal representation for nurses, professional correspondence for a legal dispute, owners of health care businesses defense attorney, physicians defense lawyer, 30 tips for professional correspondence, The Health Law Firm reviews

“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 © 2016 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

 

Always Be Certain Your Correspondence Is Professional. Don’t Detract From Your Professional Reputation: 30 Tips (Part 2 of 3)

4 Indest-2009-3By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

This is Part 2 of a 3 part series on this issue.

I continue with my tips for preparing good, professional 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 title, of the person to whom you are sending it.  In the business address of your correspondence include not only the person’s name and honorifics, but 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, all have large mail rooms which 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.

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:” is 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 your correspondence or have it typed for you.  Do not send handwritten letters in formal or professional matters.  Do not write on the other person’s correspondence or documents and send it 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 (inlcuding e-mails) of at least 12 points (10 characters per inch).  Do not use a 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 some day.  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 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, 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 or jury) to navigate his or her 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.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys.

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 DEA, 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.

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. http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: The Health Law Firm, legal representation for health care physicians, reviews of The Health Law Firm, tips for professional correspondence, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, legal representation for nurses, professional correspondence for a legal dispute, owners of health care businesses defense attorney, physicians defense lawyer, 30 tips for professional correspondence, The Health Law Firm reviews

“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 © 2016 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

Always Be Certain Your Correspondence Is Professional. Don’t Detract From Your Professional Reputation: 30 Tips (Part 1 of 3)

4 Indest-2009-3By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

I review multiple letters, e-mails, memoranda, and other types of correspondence prepared by my physician and nurse clients during the course of my legal representation of them.  Many times, this is the result of a dispute with a hospital, a dispute with their peers or the medical staff, a dispute with an insurance company, a law suit filed by a patient, a complaint being investigated by the licensing agency, or another serious legal matter.

In numerous cases, way too many cases, such correspondence is unprofessional and defeats the purpose of the reason why you are sending the correspondence.  Often enough it is so bad, 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 such documents are dictated and transcribed by a professional medical transcriptionist, they are usually correctly formatted and many of the errors I notice are avoided.  However, when the health professional types his or her own document, that is when I see the most errors.

To avoid these errors that make your correspondence and professional 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 be to attempt to persuade your hospital, your peers, or your employer to take certain action or to refrain from 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 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 service (e.g., Federal Express, Airborne Express, DHL, etc.).  Even if you are transmitting your information via an 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 then scan it in and send it electronically.

I discourage legal communications via e-mail in serious matters because they 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 blog is necessary?  Because of all the horrible correspondence I have seen written by allegedly highly educated professionals, mostly physicians and nurses.  That’s why.

Here are just a few:

Physician never wrote a separate response to any charges or allegations made against him on any peer review documents.  He would just hand write (scribble, actually) his remarks on the bottoms and in the margins of whatever document he was sent to him and then send it back.

Nurse practitioner was required to respond to serious charges of negligence resulting in an adverse outcome to a patient.  She hand wrote, on unlined paper, a response letter that was not addressed to anyone, not dated, not signed and did snot state who was sending it.

The physician was required to provide his analysis of a patient’s case for peer review purposes.  His typed letter of three pages, single spaced, contained one long paragraph.  I used to work for a Medical Corps Admiral when I was a Navy JAG Corps officer.  He 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 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 and around in the margins of the application.  This is what he signed and turned in.  Believe me, this did not look very professional.

Physician was requested to respond to a medical staff inquiry from the hospital.  Her response came back typed in 22 characters per inch (cpi) size type font, 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 to be able to read it.  If you are actually trying to communicate your ideas, make your correspondence easier to read, not harder to read.

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 “Dear Sharon,”.  Do not treat others informally, especially in professional or formal situations.  You will be deemed to be unprofessional when you do so.

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, 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.  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.  Also, it appears more professional to create a letter head 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.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys.

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 DEA, 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.

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, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

KeyWords: The Health Law Firm, legal representation for health care physicians, reviews of The Health Law Firm, tips for professional correspondence, The Health Law Firm attorney reviews, legal representation for nurses, professional correspondence for a legal dispute, owners of health care businesses defense attorney, physicians defense lawyer, 30 tips for professional correspondence, The Health Law Firm reviews

“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 © 2016 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.