Look Professional In Your Correspondence. Don’t Diminish Your Professional Reputation: 30 Tips (Part 3 of 3)

3 Indest-2009-2By 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. 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.

23. 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).

24.  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.”

25. 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.”

26. 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.

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.

 

Look Professional In Your Correspondence. Don’t Diminish Your Professional Reputation: 30 Tips (Part 2 of 3)

8 Indest-2008-5By 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. 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.

9. Always use a type font in your correspondence (including 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.

10. 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.

11. 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.

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. 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.

15. 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.

16. 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.

17. 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.

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 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.

Look Professional In Your Correspondence. Don’t Diminish Your Professional Reputation: 30 Tips (Part 1 of 3)

7 Indest-2008-4By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

I review many 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.  Often 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 many cases, way too many cases, such correspondence is unprofessional and defeats the purpose of the reason you are sending the correspondence.  Sometimes 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 properly formatted and many of the errors I note 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 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.

Finding Reliable Professional Liability Insurance

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

3 Indest-2009-2Many times we have been told by the health professionals we represent, especially  advanced registered nurse practitioners (ARNPs), pharmacists, licensed mental health counselors (LMHCs), massage therapists and physical therapists that after they received a complaint regarding their license from the Florida Department of Health (DOH) they had hard time trying to find an experienced attorney in Florida who would accept their professional liability insurance.  In this case, I am speaking specifically about Healthcare Providers Service Organization (HPSO) Insurance.


Get Insurance Now.

It is very important for every health professional to carry insurance that covers any investigation, complaint or administrative hearing that might be filed or opened against your license.  You may think that you are covered for this by your employer, but you are not.  If your employer contradicts this, ask for a statement in writing that your employer will pay for your legal defense for any such matter arising during your employment.

What typically happens, especially in the case of a hospital employee, nursing home employee, pharmacy employee or corporate employee, is that the employer is the one who terminates the employee and then files a complaint with the DOH.  The DOH then opens an investigation against the health professional.  The employer is not going to pay your legal defense costs if the employer has reported you.

You may very well be out of work, out of money and face an investigation and complaint that could terminate your professional license and career.  You should not take this chance.  Insurance such as HPSO Insurance is inexpensive and reliable.  Buy it while you can afford it. After the actions have occurred, it is too late.

HPSO Insurance Helps With Costly Legal Fees.

The healthcare professionals who are covered by HPSO Insurance have outstanding insurance coverage.  HPSO Insurance provides professional liability coverage that protects in the event of a lawsuit or negligence claim.  However, many times the professional receives a notice of an investigation, a subpoena for a deposition in someone else’s case, a demand because of an allegation of sexual harassment or sexual impropriety, a complaint because of a breach of medical records confidentiality or Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy complaint, or some other administrative type of action.

HPSO provides great coverage for these.  For example, HPSO currently reimburses up to $10,000 in legal fees and expenses just for representation of you at depositions.  HPSO currently reimburses up to $25,000 in legal fees and expenses for your defense in a DOH or Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) notice of investigation or complaint.  HPSO currently reimburses up to $25,000 in legal fees and expenses for your legal representation in defense of a complaint or investigation regarding breach of medical confidentiality.

Connect an Experienced Health Law Attorney if You are Contacted by an Investigator.

Also, you should immediately contact an experienced health law attorney if you are telephoned or visited by any investigator, or if you receive a letter advising you that an investigation has been opened regarding your care.  Call immediately for advice before you speak with an investigator or provide any documents or statements of any kind.

You cannot and should not seek “legal advice” on what to do from the investigator, from a DOH employee, from your professional board or from any attorney representing any of them.  They are not your friends.  They are on the side against you. You should definitely not take any advice from them.

Be Cautious of Cheap Insurance Policies.

If you have good insurance, it will pay for your legal expenses from the very beginning, so use it.  However, beware of cheap insurance policies from professional associations that do not provide any coverage for disciplinary complaints and licensure investigations.  Always check to be sure this is covered.  Get it in writing.  With some companies you have to pay an extra premium to obtain this coverage.  With some insurers, they do not offer it, and you have to purchase a completely separate policy covering just this.  It is worth it!  Do it!

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced Investigations of Mental Health Counselors, Psychologists, Social Workers and Family Therapists.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm provide legal representation to mental health counselors, psychologists, social workers and family therapists in Department of Health (DOH) investigations, FBI investigations and other types of investigations of health professionals and providers.

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: 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: Healthcare Providers Service Organization (HPSO) Insurance, professional liability insurance, health professionals, doctors, nurses, advanced registered nurse practitioners (ARNPs), massage therapists, licensed mental health counselors (LMHCs), social worker, assisted living facility (ALF), physical therapists, psychologists, defense attorney, defense lawyer, Florida defense attorney, experienced health lawyer Florida, experienced health attorney Florida, Florida defense lawyer, health facilities, Florida license defense, Florida Department of Health (DOH), DOH investigation, Agency for Health Care Administration (AHCA) investigation, AHCA complaint, administrative lawyer, administrative complaint, administrative hearings, administrative attorney

“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.

Optometrist Dodges Malpractice Suit for Patient’s Brain Tumor

3 Indest-2009-2By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

A New York appeals court freed a Madison Avenue Eye Care Ltd. optometrist Paul Kantrowich from a malpractice suit on November 23, 2016,. It was alleged in the suit that Kantrowich negligently failed to diagnose a patient’s partial blindness that was caused by a brain tumor. The brain tumor was diagnosed by a different doctor. The patient, Neil Flaherty, filed the suit too late, the court said, so the complaint against Kantrowich was dismissed.

Case Dismissed Because of Three-year Statue Limitations in New York.

The New York appellate court said in its decision that Flaherty cannot bring up any appointments he had with Kantrowich that occurred before February 2012 because his suit did not meet an exception to the three- year statute of limitations that exists in New York. The five-judge appellate court panel upheld the lower court’s September 2015 dismissal.

Kantrowich Did Not Diagnos Flaherty’s Brain Tumor.

The case dates back to 2005, when Kantrowich first examined Flaherty. Kantrowich had diagnosed Flaherty as being legally blind in his right eye, with 20/400 vision. For seven years, Flaherty returned to Kantrowich once a year to have his eyes examined as well as to get a prescription for contact lenses.

According to the allegations that were made, during the yearly visits, Kantrowich saw optic neuropathy, or damage, in Flaherty’s right eye. Kantrowich also noticed that the nerve was paler than it should have been. In February 2012, Kantrowich referred Flaherty to a neuro-opthamologist. The new physician to whom he was referred said Flaherty’s blindness was caused by a meningioma (tumor).

Flaherty’s suit against Kantrowich and Madison Avenue Eye Care, Ltd., claimed that Kantrowich should have either diagnosed the tumor earlier or referred him to a neuro-opthamologist sooner.

The appellate court said that Flaherty’s claims are subject to New York’s three-year statute of limitations because he did not come under the “continued treatment doctrine” which provides an exception to the statute of limitations. The court said that since Kantrowich only performed routine or diagnostic examinations and did not treat the neuropathy, his work cannot be considered a course of treatment.

The appellate court’s opinion states: “The measurement of plaintiff’s nerve pallor annually did not itself amount tp continuos treatment, or reflect any agreement to monitor the condition, but was part of the routine examination.”

The appellate panel stated that the February 2012 date falls within the statute of limitations, but because Flaherty did not argue that the delayed diagnosis worsened his condition or prevented him from getting better, the claim fails.

Editor’s Comments

It must be remembered that this case occurred in New York. Not every state has a statute of limitations for medical malpractice cases as long as New York’s is. For example, Florida’s statute of limitations for a medical negligence case is two years (in most cases). Most states have shorter statutes of limitations, with some as short as a year. If you suspect that you may have been the victim of malpractice, then you need to consult an experienced medical malpractice plaintiff’s attorney and follow-up on this at the earliest possible time. Any attorney will need time to investigate and follow the appropriate procedural steps required by law. Also, you may need to contact several different attorneys to find one who is interested in taking your case; but again, do this as early as possible.

Contact Experienced Health Law Attorneys.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents physicians, medical doctors, optometrists and ophthalmologists in defending against board complaints against their licenses, defending malpractice suits, defending peer review actions, defending whistle blower and other types of complex litigation cases. We represent physicians in Medicare and Medicaid audits, recovery actions, litigation, inspections and audits involving the DEA, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), ZPIC audits, RAC audits, Department of Health (DOH) investigations, 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.

Source:
Kass, Dani. “NY Eye Doctor Escapes Suit Over Missed Brain Tumor.” Law360. (November 23, 2016.) 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: Reviews of The Health Law Firm, optometrist defense lawyer, health law, eye specialist defense attorney, Board of Optometry defense attorney, Board of Medicine defense counsel, legal representation for healthcare providers, The Health Law Firm reviews, ophthalmologist defense attorney, neuro-ophthalmologist defense counsel, health law litigation, legal representation of health professionals, The Health Law Firm, medical malpractice defense counsel suits, peer review action defense attorney, whistle blower defense litigation attorney, complex litigation attorney, Medicare audit defense counsel Medicaid audit defense attorney, DEA defense attorney, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) defense counsel, ZPIC audit defense attorney, RAC audit legal counsel, Department of Health (DOH) investigation defense lawyer

“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.

 

Florida High Court Dismisses Hospital Negligence Suit

3 Indest-2009-2By 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 made the decision to dismiss a negligence suit filed against a hospital over the death of a 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 verus 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.

Record High False Claims Act Settlement Reached: Nursing Home Chain Will Pay $145M To End FCA

3 Indest-2009-2By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on October 24, 2016 that Life Care Centers of America will be paying $145 million to end False Claims Act (FCA) litigation that alleged the company entered false claims to Medicare for rehabilitation therapy services that were unnecessary.  This payout is a FCA record high for the nursing industry and DOJ claims it is the one of the largest in the Department’s history.

Who Blew The Whistle?

Glenda Martin and Tammie Taylor, the two whistle blowers and former employees of Life Care, will be splitting the $29 million cut of the payout that they receive as the persons who blew the whistle and filed the initial law suit.  The settlement marks the end of two whistle blower cases and a wrongful enrichment suit brought by the DOJ against Forrest L. Preston. Preston is the owner of the Tennessee-based Life Care Center that has more than 200 skilled nursing facilities.

$29 million may not be very much money to you, but it is to me.  The False Claims Act and the monetary rewards it authorizes to those who come forward and report fraudulent activities, has now become the primary tool the government has to help stamp out fraud in government programs, in my opinion.

Alleged Unnecessary Treatment.

The government joined the FCA case filed by the whistle blowers in 2012, suspecting that the company was performing excessive treatment of senior patients in order to maximize their Medicare reimbursement.  The company was accused of excessive and unreasonable treatment between January 1, 2006, and February 28, 2013, so that they would qualify for the “Ultra High” reimbursement level Medicare pays.  U.S. Attorney Nancy Stallard Harr stated on Monday that the company’s actions “exploits our most vulnerable citizens.”

According to reports, Preston announced made a statement in connection with the settlement that denied that Life Care engaged in any illegal or improper conduct but was pleased to put the matter behind it.

Whistle Blowers Receive Big Reward.

This cause helps show the big monetary rewards that employees and former employees of health care businesses can obtain by coming forward and reporting it when their employer is engaged in submitting false claims to the government.  If managers and supervisors condone or turn a blind eye toward its employees submitting false claims, then this is the same as knowingly committing such violations.  The business is profiting from the false claims.

What is usually missing when an employee or former employee tries to file a whistle blowers law suit is documentation of the companies submission of claims taht are actually false.  Therefore, before an employee or former employee files such a suit, he or she must have copies of the claims that were actually submitted (such as CMS forms 1500, superbills, explanation of benefits (EOBs), etc.) and other documentation.  Without such documentation that shows that false claims were actually submitted for payment, many FCA whistle blower suits are dismissed.

Also, any claims that are paid by state or federally funded healthcare programs can be the subject of such an action.  Most states have a state false claims act that is based on the federal law.  Usually this applies to the state Medicaid program,, but it can also apply to state provided employer health clinics that some cities, counties and agencies provide or to other state funded activities.  Federally funded health care programs that can result in FCA suits include not just Medicare, but also TRICARE, Veterans Administration (VA) funding, Public Health Service (PHS) funding, Indian Health Service (IHS) funding and other government health care programs.  When in doubt, call your friendly whistle blower attorney.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced with Qui Tam, Whistleblower and False Claims Act Cases.

Attorneys with The Health Law Firm also represent health care professionals and health facilities in qui tam or whistleblower cases both in defending such claims and in bringing such claims. We have developed relationships with recognized experts in health care accounting, health care financing, utilization review, medical review, filling, coding, and other services that assist us in such matters. We have represented doctors, nurses and others as relators in bringing qui tam or whistleblower cases, as well.

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:
Overly, Jeff. “Nursing Home Chain Inks Record $145M FCA Deal With DOJ.” Law360.(October 24, 2016).Web.

“Life Care Centers of America Inc. Agrees to Pay $145 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Allegations Relating to the Provision of Medically Unnecessary Rehabilitation Therapy Services.” Department of Justice. (October 24, 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. 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 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.