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Every medical practitioner is familiar with the National Practitioner Data Bank (“NPDB”). Under federal regulations, eligible entities report to or query the NPDB. State medical boards report imagesadverse licensure actions to the NPDB. This includes such actions as a denial of a licensure application or voluntary surrender of a medical license. Sometimes, however, the information reported to the NPDB is inaccurate in whole or in part. Inaccurate reports can have serious adverse impacts on a medical provider’s ability to practice, maintain privileges, or gain licensures. Our healthcare law firm works with healthcare provider clients to try and correct their NPDB record when the provider believes the information provided by a medical board is inaccurate using statements and correction reports.

Submitting a Statement

The NPDB allows practitioners to submit statements at any time to explain or supplement a report. According to the NPDB, the statement is the provider’s “opportunity to provide additional information [the provider] would like included with the report.” A statement does not correct or void a reporting by a medical board, but it is a useful tool for a provider to explain an adverse licensure action when that is necessary. Further, statements can be submitted or edited at any time, so the efficiency of a statement makes it a useful tool even if the provider is also asking a medical board to submit a correction report.

Our healthcare and business law firm works with many clients who are involved in litigation. Cases begin by one party bringing an action (the “Plaintiff”) against another party (the “Defendant”) in unnamed-300x247either a state or federal court. Generally speaking, cases begin at the trial court level; in Georgia, that is State or Superior Court or, if federal, District Court. The cases proceed and the judge or a jury makes a decision on the merits of the case. But what happens if the decision is adverse to your position?  What is your recourse? The answer generally is to appeal the decision. This post outlines the basic steps and requirements around appealing a decision or ruling from a Georgia Superior Court.

Appealable Rulings/Decisions

If the judge in your superior court matter issues a decision, the first step is to determine whether it is appealable. Typically, only final decisions are appealable (those that dispose of the entire matter), which makes sense “to avoid piecemeal or fragmented appeals.”  Dep’t of Transp. v. Douglas Asphalt Co., 677 S.E.2d 728, 730 (Ga. Ct. App. 2009). Georgia Code section 5-6-34 provides the rules around when a ruling of the superior court is directly appealable. A few of the appealable decisions are: “(1) All final judgments, that is to say, where the case is no longer pending in the court below . . . ; (4) All judgments or orders granting or refusing applications for receivers or for interlocutory or final injunctions.” If you wish to appeal a decision not listed, the Georgia code allows the trial court to certify a decision for immediate appeal.  O.C.G.A. § 5-6-34(b).  If the decision you wish to appeal is not listed in section 5-6-34, you may still be able to file a discretionary appeal directly in the Court of Appeals following section 5-6-35.

Our last blog post outlined 3 Practical Questions for Providers to Consider Before Signing an Employment Agreement.  In this post, we focus on a question that is at the forefront of our physician-medical_malpractice_legal_terms-300x169client’s mind when evaluating employment opportunities: “Am I responsible for paying for tail insurance coverage?”  As a healthcare and business law firm, we routinely assist physicians in negotiating terms of employment agreements.  Through our experience, we have developed tactics for negotiating compromises to the structure of tail insurance coverage agreements, and, herein, we share those tactics.

What is Tail Insurance?

During a physician’s employment, the employer generally acquires and pays for malpractice insurance covering the physician.  But what happens when a claim is brought against a physician after her or his employment ends but for actions taken during the employment?  The answer depends on the type of liability insurance purchased. 

As a healthcare and business law firm, we routinely review and analyze employment agreements for physicians and other providers both when negotiating an agreement and after a dispute has 20150713_Contract_SS_144478477arisen.  Through our experience, we have developed tips and learned what is common, what is likely to cause disputes, and what is important in a practical sense for our provider clients.  This post intends to outline three practical questions we believe important for our provider clients to consider when reviewing employment opportunities.

Question 1: Can I Complete all Contingencies Prior to my Start Date?

First things first, as a physician or other medical provider, you will necessarily be required to hold licenses, certifications, memberships, hospital privileges, provider numbers, etc. prior to providing services.  Especially for providers just completing training, it is important the agreement allows you sufficient time to complete all contingencies before employment begins.  If you are hesitant about your ability to complete the requirements before the start date written in the contract, there are changes to the contract you may be able to request, although there is no guarantee the employer will accept.  First, you can request a later start date to give you sufficient time.  Second, you can ensure there is language recognizing that the parties may agree on a later start date without terminating the agreement.  Although the parties almost always have the option to modify contract terms, including language specifically referencing the ability to modify the start date is useful to set clear expectations.  In our experience, clear expectations help avoid future disputes.

As a healthcare and business law firm, we have many business entity clients.  It is common for business-minded individuals to operate multiple registered companies.  When entering business contract-300x200contracts, it is easy for the entity name to be mistyped, written in an abbreviated or well-known form, or somehow written incorrectly, especially for those individuals operating many similar entities.  There is generally no substantial penalty for such an error, however, it can cause unnecessary trouble should a contract dispute arise, including placing the rights, duties, and liabilities under the contract on the individual who signed as the nonexistent entity.  This post intends to alert our business readers of this easily avoidable pitfall and provide an overview of how Georgia courts handle such situations.

To start, the best practice is to sign business contracts using your businesses registered name.  To verify the full and correct business name of your entity in Georgia, you can visit Georgia’s Secretary of State website.

If, however, the contract has been signed by an individual purportedly acting on behalf of a nonexistent entity, the general standard is: “[A]n undertaking by an individual in a fictitious name is the obligation of the individual.”  Courtland Hotel, LLC v. Salzer, 767 S.E.2d 750, 752 (Ga. Ct. App. 2014).  Put another way, if you sign as a fictitious entity, you undertake the responsibilities agreed to by the fictious entity.

As a healthcare and business law firm, we assist many clinical laboratories in compliance and regulatory matters, and because of COVID-19, Georgia has seen a rise in the number of clinical lab-testing-adobe-stock-300x200laboratories.  A compliance question faced by many of our clients, particularly those who conduct COVID-19 testing, is how to properly maintain and share patient records.  Herein, we note some of the rules around retaining and sharing patient records under Georgia law for clinical laboratories.

Record Retention

Georgia Code, Title 31, Chapter 22 provides rules for Clinical Laboratories.  For entities that meet the definition of “clinical laboratory,” section 31-22-4(f) provides that “[r]ecords involving clinical laboratory services and copies of reports of laboratory tests shall be kept for the period of time and in the manner prescribed by the department.”  The department refers to the Georgia Department of Community Health (“DCH”).  DCH’s rules require reports of “all clinical laboratory services, including records of laboratory test requests and reports” to be retained for at least two (2) years for general laboratory records and quality control records, at least five (5) years for records of immunohematology and cytology, and at least ten (10) years for surgical pathology records.  Rule 111-8-10-.26.

As a healthcare and business law firm, we have many clients who wish to not only practice medicine but own their own businesses.  After developing a name for their business and generally new-practice-startup-01-1outlining the mission and purpose of the business, the next step for our healthcare business clients is to determine what kind of entity they want to create.  This post intends to generally outline three options in Georgia for healthcare professionals wishing to create an entity for the purpose of providing professional services.

Limited Liability Company

Although some states offer a Professional Limited Liability Company (“PLLC”) option, Georgia does not.  Instead, the Georgia Code includes a caveat expressly allowing professionals to create Limited Liability Companies (“LLCs”) for the provision of professional services.  Specifically, O.C.G.A. § 14-11-1107(f) states:

As a healthcare and business law firm, we have many clients who participate in or wish to participate in pain management clinics.  Pain management clinics are a controversial topic.  Although image-1-8-300x200useful when managed correctly, these clinics are widely thought to be part of the cause for the opioid epidemic.  Georgia citizens suffered and continue to suffer from the opioid epidemic, but, in 2013, Georgia took a large step toward reducing the drug problem by enacting House Bill 178 (“HB 178”) known as the Georgia Pain Management Clinic Act.  Before any of our clients become involved with a pain management clinic in Georgia, we immediately advise them of the following three facts.

  1. The Role of the Georgia Composite Medical Board

 HB 178 created a section in the Georgia Code placing pain management clinics under the purview of the Georgia Composite Medical Board (“GCMB”).  As such, pain management clinics require registering and applying with the GCMB.  The application requires providing information about each owner, principal, manager, agent, and licensed health care worker.  The GCMB will review each person or entity and ensure each passes a background check and otherwise complies with the governing laws and rules.  Once approved by the GCMB, the registrant will receive a pain management clinic license number.  The GCMB strongly recommends not practicing in or operating a pain management clinic until receiving the pain management clinic license number.

A critical component for physicians, dentists, nurses, respiratory therapists and other healthcare practitioners is obtaining and keeping active in good standing your professional license to 1-mRDiqjkHzUhi-i84fR2lrg-300x188practice.  In Georgia, the Georgia Composite Medical Board (“GCMB”) is the state licensing board which determines whether a license application of a physician, physician assistant, respiratory care professional, perfusionist, acupuncturists, orthotist, prosthetist, auricular detoxification specialist, resident trainee, cosmetic laser practitioner, pain management clinic and medical geneticist is granted and in good standing.  The GCMB also is authorized to investigate and impose discipline as to practitioners who may be failing to comply with professional, ethical or other licensure standards. The Georgia Board of Dentistry and Georgia Board of Nursing serve similar roles for practitioners in those areas of healthcare.

One important part of applying for a professional license with a licensing board is completing and submitting timely and accurate documentation to support the application.  Another is being prepared to impress the board at a personal interview in support of your license application.  Here are some sound practices to remember when preparing for and participating in a board interview:

  • Identify any circumstances in your background that may be concerning as the board members consider your application. Be ready to explain what happened and how you learned from mistakes.  If you made a mistake in practice, be prepared to disclose what you did wrong, and share lessons learned from the experience and steps you have taken to avoid repeating a mistake.  For example, if you had an incident of malpractice in your background, did you complete remedial training to improve your skills and avoid a similar outcome in the future?  If you were placed on probation by a licensing body in the past, be prepared to describe the efforts you made to comply with the conditions of probation and return to good standing.

Happy New Year!  We hope you all had an enjoyable holiday season and celebration bringing in the new year.  As a healthcare and business law firm, we represent physicians with matters before medical-doctor-1314903-mthe Georgia Composite Medical Board (“GCMB”).  Herein, we discuss a tool available to any physician who believes strict application of Georgia’s rules and regulations would create an undue hardship on the physician.

The GCMB is the administrative agency in Georgia responsible for the proper licensing of physicians and enforcement of the Medical Practice Act.  The Medical Practice Act places many obligations and licensure requirements on physicians wishing to practice medicine within the state of Georgia.  Acknowledging that strict compliance with every requirement “can lead to unreasonable, uneconomical, and unintended results in particular instances,” the GCMB has the authority to grant petitions to waive certain rules and requirements.  O.C.G.A. § 50-13-9.1(a).  Georgia Code section 50-13-9.1 provides the GCMB with this authority by authorizing Georgia agencies

           “to grant a variance or waiver to a rule when a person subject to that rule demonstrates that the purpose of the underlying statute upon which the rule is based can be or has been achieved by other specific means which are agreeable to the person seeking the variance or waiver and that strict application of the rule would create a substantial hardship to such person.”

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