In response to mounting criticism from the public and medical community, the Texas Medical Board has adopted a new fast-track procedure available for certain violations of the Medical Practice Act and Board Rules. The new system bypasses the standard procedure where a physician would be investigated for 180 days followed by another potential 180 days of litigation that could then culminate in a full hearing before the Board or even a contested case proceeding before the State Office of Administrative Hearings. The problem was that this lengthy, stressful, and potentially expensive process applied to every alleged violation no matter how minor.
Under the new regime licensees accused of a violation that is only punishable by a fine and that is not accompanied by any additional charges have two options: They may either agree to the charges and simply pay the fine or dispute the charge in a writing which will be reviewed by a board committee. The third option is to opt out of the fast-track system altogether and undergo the traditional and more intensive investigation and hearing procedure.
Violations eligible for fast-track consideration include but are not limited to:
- failure to provide medical records in a timely manner;
- failure to file a change of address with the Board;
- failure to sign a death certificate in a timely manner; and
- failure to obtain required continuing medical education.
A licensee can choose to fast-track an investigation up to three times, but only once for a given violation. Also note that allegations of inadequate patient care or unprofessional conduct are not fast-track eligible.
Texas physicians should be aware that although the new procedure can be convenient and cost-saving, any sanction imposed will still appear on their record and could have real consequences to their practice. Any licensee who is unsure of the potential impact an admission of guilt could have on their practice or who simply does not feel they have done anything warranting an administrative sanction would still be well advised to consult an attorney experienced in representation before the Texas Medical Board.