Texas Physicians Get New Option For Resolving Some Medical Board Complaints

January 19, 2012

A new non-disciplinary “Remedial Plan” option enacted by the Texas Legislature last session may allow some Texas physicians to resolve charges of professional misconduct pending before the Texas Medical Board without the National Practitioner Data Bank report that normally results when a physician is formally disciplined by the Texas Medical Board. 

Previously, Texas law only allowed the Texas Medical Board to resolve complaints against a physician through either:

  • Dismissal; or
  • Imposing public discipline.

A public discipline order typically results in a report to the National Practitioner Data Bank in addition to any sanctions and public reporting of the disciplinary action. 

Under reforms enacted in Senate Bill 227/House Bill 680 last session, however, the Texas Medical Board now also may resolve some complaints by offering a “Remedial Plan” rather than imposing formal discipline.   The primary advantage to a physician of having a complaint resolved by a Remedial Plan rather than formal disciplinary actions is that the Remedial Plan will not result in a misconduct and discipline report to the National Practitioner Data Bank because of the “non-disciplinary” nature of the Remedial Plan remedy.  

Under the Remedial Plan option, the physician typically will be required to agree to certain remedial actions dictated by the Texas Medical Board in a public document that will appear on a physician’s public profile.  The written Remedial Plan generally will state that the physician is subject to a “non-disciplinary” action for a specified violation.  While the basis of the charge leading to the Remedial Plan and agreed to corrective action generally will be included in the posted Remedial Plan, a physician generally will not be required to admit guilt.  Since the physician will avoid disciplinary action, resolution by the Remedial Plan avoids the obligation for a report of disciplinary action to the National Practitioner Data Bank.   In addition to avoiding a report to the National Practitioner Data Bank,  resolution of a complaint by a Remedial Plan also allows a physician to avoid having his name listed in the Board’s newsletter or in the Board’s press releases like would result in the case of a disciplinary action.

Remedial Plans are not available for all charges.  Rather, Remedial Plans generally are an option only for a limited number of situations in which the Texas Medical Board decides to offer the option for resolution of a complaint through a Remedial Plan based on its decision that fulfillment of the specified conditions sufficiently corrects the concerns raised by the charge that it is appropriate to forgo formal disciplinary action.  Most typically, this could happen when the Texas Medical Board is addressing administrative violations after receiving a complaint or in other instances where the Texas Medical Board decides the nature and circumstances of a charged violation can be adequately addressed through the Remedial Plan without formal discipline.  When offered, Remedial Plan resolution is a take it or leave it propositions.  The Texas Medical Board decides the required terms of the Remedial Plan and these terms are non-negotiable.  Also physicians offered the option of resolution under a Remedial Plan generally must accept the offered Remedial Plan terms by a specific deadline.

While a physician generally cannot insist upon the option for resolution through a Remedial Plan or dictate the terms of a Remedial Plan, a physician facing charges before the Texas Medical Board often can  can improve his odds for avoiding discipline by the Texas Medical Board or qualifying for resolution of charges under a Remedial Plan by acting quickly with the assistance of experienced legal counsel to gather and present to the Texas Medical Board factual evidence and documentation that negate or mitigate charges of misconduct as well as signaling his interest and willingness to take action to mitigate the risks reflected by the charges and improve performance whether or not the action resulting in the charge in fact resulted in misconduct.

For Help With Compliance, Investigations Or Other Needs

If you need help dealing with licensing, peer review, or other quality assurance, compliance or other health care related risk management, compliance, enforcement or management concerns, the author of this update, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, may be able to help. Vice President of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, Past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Section and the former Board Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas, Ms. Stamer has more than 24 years experience advising health industry clients about these and other matters. Ms. Stamer has extensive experience advising and assisting health care providers and other health industry clients to establish and administer and other compliance and risk management policies, to health care industry investigation, enforcement and other compliance, public policy, regulatory, staffing, and other quality and performance concerns, and to address other operations and risk management concerns. A popular lecturer and widely published author on health industry concerns, Ms. Stamer continuously advises health industry clients about compliance and internal controls, workforce and medical staff performance, quality, governance, reimbursement, and other risk management and operational matters. Ms. Stamer also publishes and speaks extensively on health and managed care industry regulatory, staffing and human resources, compensation and benefits, technology, public policy, reimbursement and other operations and risk management concerns/ She also regularly designs and presents risk management, compliance and other training for health care providers, professional associations and others including highly popular programs on “Sex Drugs & Rock ‘N Role: Managing Personal Misconduct in Health Care,” “Managing Physician Performance” and others..   Her publications and insights appear in the Health Care Compliance Association, Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, World At Work, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insurance, the Dallas Morning News, Modern Health Care, Managed Healthcare, Health Leaders, and a many other national and local publications.  You can get more information about her health industry experience here. If you need assistance with these or other compliance concerns, wish to inquire about arranging for compliance audit or training, or need legal representation on other matters please contact Ms. Stamer at (469) 767-8872 or via e-mail here.

About Solutions Law Press

Solutions Law Press™ provides business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other resources, training and education on human resources, employee benefits, compensation, data security and privacy, health care, insurance, and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and other key operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press resources including:

 

 

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail – by creating or updating your profile here. For important information concerning this communication click here. 

THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TO U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 REGULATIONS.  ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.

©2011 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C.  Non-exclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press.  All other rights reserved.


Texas Medical Board Suspends Child Psychiatrist For Sexual Misconduct

November 22, 2011

Personal Misconduct By Physicians Or Other Health Care Workers Common Cause of Discipline

On November 22, 2011, a disciplinary panel of the Texas Medical Board temporarily suspended, without notice, the medical license of Charles Henry Fischer, M.D., after determining that Dr. Fischer, a child psychiatrist at the Austin State Hospital in Austin, has demonstrated a pattern of sexually abusing teenage boys in his care for inpatient psychiatric treatment over a period of nearly 20 years. The discipline highlights again that personal misconduct remains a key reason for discipline of medical professionals.

Dr. Fischer, 59, was employed at Austin State Hospital from December 1990 until his termination on November 14, 2011. He also was employed as a psychiatrist at the Waco Center for Youth, the Southwest Neuropsychiatric Institute in San Antonio, Lutheran Social Services Residential Treatment Center for Girls and Central Counties Mental Health and Mental Retardation.  The Board imposed the suspension based on information that as many as nine patients had alleged sexual abuse by Dr. Fischer since the first patient report in 1992.

Unprofessional personal misconduct presenting a right to public health and safety is a common trigger for discipline by the Texas Medical Board and other licensing boards.  See, e.g. Quality, Recordkeeping & Unprofessional Conduct Lead Reasons For Medical Board Discipline of Physicians. Although complaints based on sexual misconduct occur much less frequently than substance abuse or other types of personal misconduct, the Texas Medical Board and other medical licensing bodies view sexual misconduct as among the most serious types of violations.  The prevalence rate of sexual misconduct in physicians is estimated at 6-10 percent but this phenomenon is likely under-reported in physician surveys and by patients. It is believed that the number of false claims made by patients is very low. A 1992 study indicates that only 4-8 percent of patients report a doctor’s sexual misconduct.  Physicians found guilty of engaging in prohibited sexual misconduct typically are male, have a mean age of 53, practice in private practice, and have a history of substance abuse, are in the midst of a divorce, separation or other life crisis and tend to engage in higher than typical nonsexual patient touch with patients.

Because of their special role and responsibility with respect to patients and the community, the law, the profession and the public impose high expectations upon physicians and other health care professionals in relation to their sexual conduct toward patients and others.  State medical practices and other medical licensure bodies, the American Medical Association Code of Conduct, the Joint Commission, peer review and other disciplinary boards and other regulatory and administrative policies and bodies generally prohibit both sexual assault, sexual harassment, and a broad range of other conduct of a sexual nature considered to be inconsistent with the special relationship of trust occupied by the health care professional. 

Sexual misconduct charges that can result in discipline can include clear atrocities such as rape or other sexual assaults, as well as engagement in inappropriate sexual relationships or overtures to current or former patients, as well as sexual harassment and certain other types of sexual relationships or conduct involving staff or others.  See, e.g., Ringer v. Texas State Bd. of Med. Examiners, 1999 Tex. App. LEXIS 8214 (Tex. App. 1999); Texas State Board of Medical Examiners v. Haynes, 388 S.W.2d 258, 261 (Tex. App. 1965); Texas State Board of Medical Examiners v. Koepsel, 159 Tex. 479 (Tex. 1959).  In addition discipline by the Board of Medicine, physicians or other health care providers typically also face other consequences such as medical malpractice, sexual harassment or other similar claims or charges, peer review discipline, data bank reports, employment termination or discipline, practice expulsion, and criminal prosecution.  Even if a physician or other heath care provider dodges formal discipline, accusations of sexual misconduct by a physician or other health care provider tends to permanently damage the practice and reputation of the health care.

Sexual misconduct by a physician or other health care provider or workforce member also can create significant exposures for hospitals, clinics, affiliated physicians and health care professionals associated with a physician or health care provider found to have engaged in sexual misconduct. Among other things, the failure of these third parties to take adequate steps to prevent, investigate, report or redress another health care provider’s sexual misconduct or harassment may result in malpractice or other civil litigation, licensure or other professional investigation or discipline, reputational damages and other consequences.

To guard against these exposures, physicians and other health care providers should exercise care to avoid engaging in actions that might expose them to charges of sexual assault, harassment or other inappropriate sexual conduct and should adopt policies, adopt procedures and practices to prohibit and provide training and other oversight to encourage other health care providers and staff to avoid such conduct. If a physician or other health care provider or organization observes, receives a report or charge or otherwise becomes aware of information indicating that a potential sexual assault or other inappropriate sexual conduct may have occurred, it should act promptly and appropriately to investigate and redress the conduct or suspected conduct in a manner designed to strengthen their defenses against possible disciplinary action or other liabilities and risks.   Because of the legal sensitivity and risk associated with the allegations of sexual misconduct and the investigation of those charges, physicians and other health care providers and organizations involved in these concerns generally should engage competent legal counsel as soon as possible when these concerns come to light for assistance in responding to the concerns, as well as the ability to use attorney-client privilege and work product, peer review, quality, and other legal privileges and other legal rules and safeguards to help promote confidentiality and defensibility of sensitive communications and conduct in connection with the investigation and response to these concerns.

For Help With Compliance, Investigations Or Other Needs

If you need assistance providing compliance or other training, reviewing or responding to these or other health care related risk management, compliance, enforcement or management concerns, the author of this update, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, may be able to help. Vice President of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, Past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Section and the former Board Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas, Ms. Stamer has more than 23 years experience advising health industry clients about these and other matters. Ms. Stamer has extensive experience advising and assisting health care providers and other health industry clients to establish and administer medical privacy and other compliance and risk management policies, to health care industry investigation, enforcement and other compliance, public policy, regulatory, staffing, and other operations and risk management concerns. A popular lecturer and widely published author on health industry concerns, Ms. Stamer continuously advises health industry clients about compliance and internal controls, workforce and medical staff performance, quality, governance, reimbursement, and other risk management and operational matters. Ms. Stamer also publishes and speaks extensively on health and managed care industry regulatory, staffing and human resources, compensation and benefits, technology, public policy, reimbursement and other operations and risk management concerns/ She also regularly designs and presents risk management, compliance and other training for health care providers, professional associations and others including highly popular programs on “Sex Drugs & Rock ‘N Role: Managing Personal Misconduct in Health Care,” “Managing Physician Performance” and others..   Her publications and insights appear in the Health Care Compliance Association, Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, World At Work, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insurance, the Dallas Morning News, Modern Health Care, Managed Healthcare, Health Leaders, and a many other national and local publications.  You can get more information about her health industry experience here. If you need assistance with these or other compliance concerns, wish to inquire about arranging for compliance audit or training, or need legal representation on other matters please contact Ms. Stamer at (469) 767-8872 or via e-mail here.

About Solutions Law Press

Solutions Law Press™ provides business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other resources, training and education on human resources, employee benefits, compensation, data security and privacy, health care, insurance, and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and other key operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press resources including:

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail – by creating or updating your profile here. For important information concerning this communication click here. 

THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TO U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 REGULATIONS.  ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.

©2011 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C.  Non-exclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press.  All other rights reserved.


100,000+ Primary Care Providers Signed Up To Get EHRs Regional Extension Centers

November 17, 2011

The HHS Office for the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology announced today that nearly one-third of all primary care providers -plan to work with their Regional Extension Center (REC) to participate in the Medicare and Medicaid Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Programs as a way to transition from paper records to certified EHRs. 

Designed to jump start EHR adoption, the Health Information Technology Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009, part of the Recovery Act, created a nationwide network of RECs comprised of local nonprofits, to provide guidance and resources to help eligible professionals make the transition from paper records to certified EHRs.  Eligible providers that meet meaningful use of certified EHRs criteria may be eligible for incentive payments under the Recovery Act.

The 62 RECs focus on assisting primary care providers and those providers serving traditionally medically underserved populations as they take part in the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs and meaningfully use EHRs in ways that can reduce health care costs, increase patient safety, and improve the overall quality of patient care.  These providers face challenges in EHR adoption including tight budgets, over-stretched health information technology staff, and limited broadband access.

One-half of the providers committed to making the transition to certified EHRs are in small group practices or consortia of small group practices.  The remaining providers focus on the underserved with 18 percent in community health centers, 11 percent in public hospitals, and 21 percent in other underserved settings, such as critical access hospitals, rural health clinics, and practices in medically underserved areas.

RECs serve the majority of primary care providers in small practices in rural areas.  Today’s figures include over half of the targeted 1,776 critical access and rural hospitals in 41 states and throughout Indian Country.

A complete listing of REC grant recipients and additional information about Regional Extension Centers may be found at http://www.HealthIT.hhs.gov/REC/.

For information about the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs, see http://www.cms.gov/EHRIncentivePrograms.

For information about HHS Recovery Act health IT programs, see http://www.hhs.gov/recovery/announcements/by_topic.html#hit.

For Help With Compliance, Investigations Or Other Needs

If you need assistance understanding, managing or defending licensing board, peer review or other requirements or actions, providing compliance or other training, reviewing or responding to these or other health care related risk management, compliance, enforcement or management concerns, the author of this update, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, may be able to help. Vice President of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, Past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Section and the former Board Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas, Ms. Stamer has more than 23 years experience advising health industry clients about these and other matters. Ms. Stamer has extensive experience advising and assisting health care providers and other health industry clients to establish and administer medical privacy and other compliance and risk management policies, to health care industry investigation, enforcement and other compliance, public policy, regulatory, staffing, and other operations and risk management concerns. A popular lecturer and widely published author on health industry concerns, Ms. Stamer continuously advises health industry clients about compliance and internal controls, workforce and medical staff performance, quality, governance, reimbursement, and other risk management and operational matters. Ms. Stamer also publishes and speaks extensively on health and managed care industry regulatory, staffing and human resources, compensation and benefits, technology, public policy, reimbursement and other operations and risk management concerns/ She also regularly designs and presents risk management, compliance and other training for health care providers, professional associations and others including highly popular programs on “Sex Drugs & Rock ‘N Role: Managing Personal Misconduct in Health Care,” “Managing Physician Performance” and others..   Her publications and insights appear in the Health Care Compliance Association, Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, World At Work, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insurance, the Dallas Morning News, Modern Health Care, Managed Healthcare, Health Leaders, and a many other national and local publications.  You can get more information about her health industry experience here. If you need assistance with these or other compliance concerns, wish to inquire about arranging for compliance audit or training, or need legal representation on other matters please contact Ms. Stamer at (469) 767-8872 or via e-mail here.

About Solutions Law Press

Solutions Law Press™ provides business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other resources, training and education on human resources, employee benefits, compensation, data security and privacy, health care, insurance, and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and other key operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press resources. 

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail – by creating or updating your profile here. For important information concerning this communication click here. 

THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TO U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 REGULATIONS.  ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.

 

©2011 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C.  Non-exclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press.  All other rights reserved.

 


TMP Reminds Texas Doctors To Register To Electronically File Death Certificates; Enforcement Grace Period Ends 6/1

May 17, 2011

Texas physicians that anticipate being called upon to sign a death certificate should register to file the the certificate electronically ahead of time.   

Texas law now requires electronic filing of death certifications and advance registration is required to use this process. 

According to the Texas Medical Board, more than 100 physicians faced disciplinary action from the Texas Medical Board for failing to complete death certificates electronically, as required by Texas law.  In response to requests of members of the Texas Legislature, the Texas Medical Board gave physicians a grace period until June 1 to allow them more time to register and has refunded fines and dismissed pending disciplinary actions. As it prepares to resume enforcement when the grace period ends June 1, 2011, the Texas Medical Board is reminding physicians of the need to register as soon as possible by visiting here.

For Help With Compliance, Investigations Or Other Needs

If you need assistance understanding, managing or defending licensing board, peer review or other requirements or actions, providing compliance or other training, reviewing or responding to these or other health care related risk management, compliance, enforcement or management concerns, the author of this update, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, may be able to help. Vice President of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, Past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Section and the former Board Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas, Ms. Stamer has more than 23 years experience advising health industry clients about these and other matters. Ms. Stamer has extensive experience advising and assisting health care providers and other health industry clients to establish and administer medical privacy and other compliance and risk management policies, to health care industry investigation, enforcement and other compliance, public policy, regulatory, staffing, and other operations and risk management concerns. A popular lecturer and widely published author on health industry concerns, Ms. Stamer continuously advises health industry clients about compliance and internal controls, workforce and medical staff performance, quality, governance, reimbursement, and other risk management and operational matters. Ms. Stamer also publishes and speaks extensively on health and managed care industry regulatory, staffing and human resources, compensation and benefits, technology, public policy, reimbursement and other operations and risk management concerns/ She also regularly designs and presents risk management, compliance and other training for health care providers, professional associations and others including highly popular programs on “Sex Drugs & Rock ‘N Role: Managing Personal Misconduct in Health Care,” “Managing Physician Performance” and others..   Her publications and insights appear in the Health Care Compliance Association, Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, World At Work, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insurance, the Dallas Morning News, Modern Health Care, Managed Healthcare, Health Leaders, and a many other national and local publications.  You can get more information about her health industry experience here. If you need assistance with these or other compliance concerns, wish to inquire about arranging for compliance audit or training, or need legal representation on other matters please contact Ms. Stamer at (469) 767-8872 or via e-mail here.

About Solutions Law Press

Solutions Law Press™ provides business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other resources, training and education on human resources, employee benefits, compensation, data security and privacy, health care, insurance, and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and other key operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press resources including:

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail – by creating or updating your profile here. For important information concerning this communication click here. 

THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TO U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 REGULATIONS.  ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.

 

©2011 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C.  Non-exclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press.  All other rights reserved.

 


Sexual Misconduct Investigation Prompts Medical Board Suspension of Texas Doctor

March 16, 2011

Personal Misconduct By Physicians Or Other Health Care Workers Common Trigger for Disciplinary Action Or  Other Liability

On March 14, 2011, a disciplinary panel of the Texas Medical Board temporarily suspended, with notice, the medical license of Ramon A. Cruz, M.D., of Denton, based on allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior with several patients.  According to the Texas Medical Board, the panel found that Dr. Cruz, Lic. No. K3703, engaged in sexually inappropriate behavior with several patients. Four incidents, including an alleged sexual assault, were reported by patients to Denton Police.  The panel found that Dr. Cruz’s actions demonstrate a pattern of inappropriate behavior, which is a continuing threat to public health and safety justifying the suspension of his license.  The suspension remains in effect until the Board takes further action.

Unprofessional personal misconduct presenting a right to public health and safety is a common trigger for discipline by the Texas Medical Board and other licensing boards.  See, e.g. Quality, Recordkeeping & Unprofessional Conduct Lead Reasons For Medical Board Discipline of Physicians. Although complaints based on sexual misconduct occur much less frequently than substance abuse or other types of personal misconduct, the Texas Medical Board and other medical licensing bodies view sexual misconduct as among the most serious types of violations.  The prevalence rate of sexual misconduct in physicians is estimated at 6-10 percent but this phenomenon is likely under-reported in physician surveys and by patients. It is believed that the number of false claims made by patients is very low. A 1992 study indicates that only 4-8 percent of patients report a doctor’s sexual misconduct.  Physicians found guilty of engaging in prohibited sexual misconduct typically are male, have a mean age of 53, practice in private practice, and have a history of substance abuse, are in the midst of a divorce, separation or other life crisis and tend to engage in higher than typical nonsexual patient touch with patients.

Because of their special role and responsibility with respect to patients and the community, the law, the profession and the public impose high expectations upon physicians and other health care professionals in relation to their sexual conduct toward patients and others.  State medical practices and other medical licensure bodies, the American Medical Association Code of Conduct, the Joint Commission, peer review and other disciplinary boards and other regulatory and administrative policies and bodies generally prohibit both sexual assault, sexual harassment, and a broad range of other conduct of a sexual nature considered to be inconsistent with the special relationship of trust occupied by the health care professional. 

Sexual misconduct charges that can result in discipline can include clear atrocities such as rape or other sexual assaults, as well as engagement in inappropriate sexual relationships or overtures to current or former patients, as well as sexual harassment and certain other types of sexual relationships or conduct involving staff or others.  See, e.g., Ringer v. Texas State Bd. of Med. Examiners, 1999 Tex. App. LEXIS 8214 (Tex. App. 1999); Texas State Board of Medical Examiners v. Haynes, 388 S.W.2d 258, 261 (Tex. App. 1965); Texas State Board of Medical Examiners v. Koepsel, 159 Tex. 479 (Tex. 1959).  In addition discipline by the Board of Medicine, physicians or other health care providers typically also face other consequences such as medical malpractice, sexual harassment or other similar claims or charges, peer review discipline, data bank reports, employment termination or discipline, practice expulsion, and criminal prosecution.  Even if a physician or other heath care provider dodges formal discipline, accusations of sexual misconduct by a physician or other health care provider tends to permanently damage the practice and reputation of the health care.

Sexual misconduct by a physician or other health care provider or workforce member also can create significant exposures for hospitals, clinics, affiliated physicians and health care professionals associated with a physician or health care provider found to have engaged in sexual misconduct. Among other things, the failure of these third parties to take adequate steps to prevent, investigate, report or redress another health care provider’s sexual misconduct or harassment may result in malpractice or other civil litigation, licensure or other professional investigation or discipline, reputational damages and other consequences.

To guard against these exposures, physicians and other health care providers should exercise care to avoid engaging in actions that might expose them to charges of sexual assault, harassment or other inappropriate sexual conduct and should adopt policies, adopt procedures and practices to prohibit and provide training and other oversight to encourage other health care providers and staff to avoid such conduct. If a physician or other health care provider or organization observes, receives a report or charge or otherwise becomes aware of information indicating that a potential sexual assault or other inappropriate sexual conduct may have occurred, it should act promptly and appropriately to investigate and redress the conduct or suspected conduct in a manner designed to strengthen their defenses against possible disciplinary action or other liabilities and risks.   Because of the legal sensitivity and risk associated with the allegations of sexual misconduct and the investigation of those charges, physicians and other health care providers and organizations involved in these concerns generally should engage competent legal counsel as soon as possible when these concerns come to light for assistance in responding to the concerns, as well as the ability to use attorney-client privilege and work product, peer review, quality, and other legal privileges and other legal rules and safeguards to help promote confidentiality and defensibility of sensitive communications and conduct in connection with the investigation and response to these concerns.

For Help With Compliance, Investigations Or Other Needs

If you need assistance providing compliance or other training, reviewing or responding to these or other health care related risk management, compliance, enforcement or management concerns, the author of this update, attorney Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, may be able to help. Vice President of the North Texas Health Care Compliance Professionals Association, Past Chair of the ABA Health Law Section Managed Care & Insurance Section and the former Board Compliance Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas, Ms. Stamer has more than 23 years experience advising health industry clients about these and other matters. Ms. Stamer has extensive experience advising and assisting health care providers and other health industry clients to establish and administer medical privacy and other compliance and risk management policies, to health care industry investigation, enforcement and other compliance, public policy, regulatory, staffing, and other operations and risk management concerns. A popular lecturer and widely published author on health industry concerns, Ms. Stamer continuously advises health industry clients about compliance and internal controls, workforce and medical staff performance, quality, governance, reimbursement, and other risk management and operational matters. Ms. Stamer also publishes and speaks extensively on health and managed care industry regulatory, staffing and human resources, compensation and benefits, technology, public policy, reimbursement and other operations and risk management concerns/ She also regularly designs and presents risk management, compliance and other training for health care providers, professional associations and others including highly popular programs on “Sex Drugs & Rock ‘N Role: Managing Personal Misconduct in Health Care,” “Managing Physician Performance” and others..   Her publications and insights appear in the Health Care Compliance Association, Atlantic Information Service, Bureau of National Affairs, World At Work, The Wall Street Journal, Business Insurance, the Dallas Morning News, Modern Health Care, Managed Healthcare, Health Leaders, and a many other national and local publications.  You can get more information about her health industry experience here. If you need assistance with these or other compliance concerns, wish to inquire about arranging for compliance audit or training, or need legal representation on other matters please contact Ms. Stamer at (469) 767-8872 or via e-mail here.

About Solutions Law Press

Solutions Law Press™ provides business risk management, legal compliance, management effectiveness and other resources, training and education on human resources, employee benefits, compensation, data security and privacy, health care, insurance, and other key compliance, risk management, internal controls and other key operational concerns. If you find this of interest, you also be interested reviewing some of our other Solutions Law Press resources including:

If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail – by creating or updating your profile here. For important information concerning this communication click here. 

THE FOLLOWING DISCLAIMER IS INCLUDED TO COMPLY WITH AND IN RESPONSE TO U.S. TREASURY DEPARTMENT CIRCULAR 230 REGULATIONS.  ANY STATEMENTS CONTAINED HEREIN ARE NOT INTENDED OR WRITTEN BY THE WRITER TO BE USED, AND NOTHING CONTAINED HEREIN CAN BE USED BY YOU OR ANY OTHER PERSON, FOR THE PURPOSE OF (1) AVOIDING PENALTIES THAT MAY BE IMPOSED UNDER FEDERAL TAX LAW, OR (2) PROMOTING, MARKETING OR RECOMMENDING TO ANOTHER PARTY ANY TAX-RELATED TRANSACTION OR MATTER ADDRESSED HEREIN.

 

©2011 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, P.C.  Non-exclusive license to republish granted to Solutions Law Press.  All other rights reserved.

 


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