What do Doctors Need to Report to the Medical Board?

Understanding what to report to the Colorado Medical Board outside the renewal cycle can help doctors avoid disciplinary issues.

The most frequent mistake physicians make is failing to report a new address to the Board. Rule 270 requires physicians to update their address of record within 30 days. This requires an express request from the doctor that the address be changed. The Board will not update its files otherwise. While this may seem mundane, the failure to update an address can lead to disciplinary actions when complaint letters do not reach the physician.

Another requirement often overlooked is to notify the Board when a physician/P.A. relationship ends.  Under Rule 400, a P.A.’s conduct may be imputed to a supervising physician.  The Board deems the supervisory relationship to continue “until specifically rescinded by either the physician assistant or the primary physician supervisor in writing.” A physician must not only file a notice with the Board of the supervisory relationship, also notify the Board when the relationship ends. Physicians should not rely on the assumption that the P.A. will notify the Board when the relationship ends.

The failure to timely report a condition that affects a physician’s ability to practice safely will prevent the doctor from entering into a confidential agreement. Under C.R.S. § 12-36-118.5, the Board is authorized enter into confidential agreements to limit practice if the physician suffers from a physical or mental condition that renders the physician unable to safely practice. However, doctors can only take advantage of this statute if the licensee reports the condition to the Board within 30 days of onset. Rule 295 explains the information to be reported, and Policy 30-04 provides guidance on the types of conditions that must be reported. Failure to timely report can result in public discipline.

Doctors and P.A.s are also required to report within 30 days any adverse action against the licensee taken by another state or country, a peer review body, health care institutions, and others. This requirement extends to governmental agencies, law enforcement and courts, if that action would constitute a violation of the Medical Practice Act. Thus, physicians must report any limitation of privilege, felony convictions, and any exclusion from Federal health care programs. Doctors (and P.A.s) must also to report any surrender of privileges while under investigation. Doctors are not required to report malpractice settlements, although Colorado insurance companies must, by statute, report malpractice settlements and judgments to the Medical Board.

GUEST POST: Adam Rosenblum on the Affect of a Crime on a Professional License

Acquiring a professional license to practice in a particular field requires investing a lot of energy, time and money. Whether you studied to be a nurse, accountant, dentist, lawyer, pharmacist, etc., there is enormous value in having gone through school, passed the required exams and established your career. A common misconception that professional practitioners fail to realize is that being convicted of a crime, even when you are not on the job, can result in having your professional license suspended or revoked.

What Does Having A Professional License Mean?

Under the law, if you have earned a professional license it means that you are given permission to practice in your chosen field. Having a license does not mean you have an unrestricted right to use your license. A professional license is just like a driver’s license in that if you do not obey the rules of the road or abuse your driving privilege you can lose your permission to drive.

It is very important for professionals that use a license to work maintain a clean criminal record because losing a license can have immeasurable consequences both personally and financially.

Who Investigates Professional Misconduct?

Each profession has different agencies that will investigate matters of professional misconduct. In the medical field, doctors and physicians are held to very high professional and ethical standards and are monitored by the Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC) under the New York State Department of Health (the equivalent of the Colorado Medical Board).  In New York, if a physician is facing criminal charges the OPMC can launch a separate investigation and impose sanctions, such as suspending a physician’s license, if they find that the professional was involved in some misconduct.

The primary objective of the OPMC is to protect the public by investigating professional discipline and misconduct issues involving licensed practitioners. The OPMC will investigate all complaints of misconduct, conduct disciplinary hearings and monitor a physician who had his license restored after a suspension. The OPMC usually will launch investigations into criminal convictions and not for disorderly person’s offenses or violations. Many professional practitioners have been cited for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) and have had negative effects on their license.

If I Have The Criminal Charges Dropped, Can I Still Lose My Professional License?

There are two different standards of proof to find someone guilty in criminal cases and cases involving professional misconduct. In criminal cases, the prosecutor must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  This is the highest standard of proof or burden to meet within the legal system. Reasonable doubt usually means that a juror may have some doubt in their mind, but it cannot be one that would affect a reasonable person’s “moral certainty” that a person is guilty. The main reason that criminal trials carry such a high standard of proof is because a person’s complete freedom and liberty is at stake.

Investigations into professional misconduct carry a lower burden of proof than is needed in criminal courts. Agencies like the OPMC or the Board of Bar Examiners (for lawyers) need only to reach enough proof by a preponderance of the evidence standard. This simply means that given the facts in evidence one side is more convincing or more likely true than not to be true (over 50% true). This is a much lower standard than proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

The reason that the burden of proof is lower is because unlike criminal court where your freedom is on the line, in professional discipline hearings you are losing only your permission to practice a specific profession. Since there is a lower burden of proof in professional misconduct hearings, you can still lose your professional license even though you had the criminal charges dismissed against you.

Should I Contact An Attorney? 

It can be devastating to work your whole life in establishing a professional practice only to make one mistake that makes you lose your license to practice. In many cases simply being accused of some misconduct can result in license suspension. You need your license to legally practice in your chosen profession and earn your livelihood. If you have a professional license and are facing criminal charges, you need an experienced attorney to help keep your record clean and help you get your professional license restored.

Author Bio

Adam H. Rosenblum of The Rosenblum Law Firm is a licensed attorney practicing in New York and New Jersey his websites are www.rosenblumlawfirm.com and www.ticketdefenselaw.com

How Colorado’s Legalization of Marijuana Impacts Physicians

In the 2012 election, Colorado’s voters approved a new constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana for recreational use. This comes five years after Colorado’s legalization of medical marijuana in 2007. In the wake of these laws, the question arises as to how the Colorado Medical Board will treat marijuana use by physicians. The short answer is that the Board will view marijuana use exactly the same as it did before it was legal.

Typically, the Medical Board only becomes aware of a doctor’s use of drugs or alcohol in the context of a complaint for another reason (i.e., a DUI, report of impairment at work, or as the result of a self-report). Like alcohol and other drugs, the Colorado Medical Board has always viewed physician use of marijuana as improper and typically results in the Board ordering physicians to CPHP for an evaluation to determine if the doctor has a substance abuse problem that warrants discipline and oversight. This approach is also echoed by other boards, such as nursing or dentistry, where a referral to Peer Assistance Services is a foregone conclusion where provider drug use is involved. Legalization for medical use did not change this view, and legalization for recreational use will likely not change that view either. Essentially, the legality of a drug is irrelevant to the Colorado Medical Board’s analysis because the Medical Board’s focus is on physician impairment and patient safety. Medscape Today published an interesting article recently that discussed the issue of physician marijuana use and impairment with CPHP’s Medical Director, Doris Gundersen, M.D. The article can be found HERE. (Free login required).  Although Dr. Gundersen does not work for or represent the Medical Board, her statements are consistent with the Medical Board’s view that legality is irrelevant. For example, physicians with prescription pain dependence or addiction (or alcohol impairment) are not exempted from discipline or oversight because the medication is legal and/or prescribed.

Doctors and other health care providers who choose to use either medical or recreational marijuana (or any other drug), should be aware that such use could place the physician’s license in jeopardy. The excuse that “it’s legal” will not be a defense to marijuana use in the eyes of the Medical Board.

Copyright Miller | Kabler, P.C., Attorneys-at-Law