The process by which the State of Florida regulates health care is complex. This flow chart is prepared by the Florida Department of Health, demonstrating the process that occurs once a complaint is made against your license. There are critical deadlines that must be followed to successfully resolve your case. You also have important legal rights during this process, but these rights can be waived by missing key deadlines. The DOH investigation process can be confusing, and you should consult with an experienced health care attorney to avoid negative consequences and help you keep your professional license.
Our firm represents all types of health care professionals facing these of legal issues. We can help you:
Anyone, including a former patient, client, or competitor, can file a complaint against your license with the Department of Health (DOH). When DOH receives a complaint, it may open an investigation into that complaint. The case gets assigned to a DOH investigator, a non-attorney who works out of one of the many DOH local offices in the State of Florida.
The DOH investigator is like a police detective; he or she will interview witnesses, review documents, and gather evidence. At this stage, you will receive an investigative letter. In this letter, DOH informs you that a complaint has been filed against your license. This letter also informs you of an important right. You have the right to file a written response to the complaint within 20 or 45 days of receiving the letter, depending on the type of license you have. You can also be interviewed by the investigator in lieu of filing a written response. Note, you do NOT have to respond to the investigative letter. At this same stage, you may also receive a subpoena from DOH. A subpoena is a legal document that compels you to hand over evidence to the investigator. It is important that you respond to the subpoena quickly and accurately, or you could face additional discipline. If you receive an investigative letter and/or subpoena from DOH, it is highly recommended that you speak with an attorney before responding. Communicating with the DOH investigator is a lot like communicating with the police; anything you say can and will be used against you! It is also important that you do not ignore the letter, as issues with DOH rarely go away on their own.
Once the investigator completes his or her investigation, the case is sent to the DOH headquarters in Tallahassee. The case is then reviewed by a DOH attorney (called a prosecutor), to determine whether DOH will file a formal administrative complaint (AC) against your license. If DOH and the Board choose to bring formal charges, you will be served with an AC, which outlines the allegations against you that, if proven true, would be grounds for disciplining your license. Once you receive the AC, you have 21 days to respond by filing an Election of Rights (EOR) form. Your options for responding to the AC are generally as follows:
As you can see, how you choose to respond to the AC can greatly impact your case. Consult with an attorney to better understand whether you should deny the allegations, whether you should accept DOH’s offered settlement agreement, and what possible discipline you may be facing. Note that at this stage the complaint becomes a public record; administrative complaints are posted to the DOH website.
If you choose option 1 or option 3 above, you will likely have to appear before your professional Board. These appearances require a great deal of preparation, review of the relevant documents, and familiarity with the operation and decorum of the Board. Our firm thoroughly prepares our clients for their Board appearances and works to present their cases to the Board in the best light possible. The Board determines what your ultimate discipline will be. To do this, they apply formal disciplinary guidelines. These guidelines are not set in stone. The Board can deviate from the guidelines if it finds that there are either aggravating or mitigating factors in your case. Every case is unique, so it is important carefully review all the facts to determine what the best arguments are to make to the Board.
Howell, Buchan & Strong represents healthcare professionals and facilities.
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If you have received an investigative letter or administrative complaint from the Florida Department of Health, act quickly to avoid waiving your legal rights. Call Howell, Buchan & Strong for a FREE, no-obligation consultation at any one or our locations:
Tallahassee (850) 877-7776 | Orlando (407) 717-1773 | Tampa (813) 833-6726 | Sarasota (941) 779-4348 | Cape Coral (239) 671-4243