Understanding the New York Medical Conduct Program

Doctor Using a Laptop

You feel that your doctor mistreated you or worse, botched an operation. What do you do?

The medical profession has a code of conduct for healthcare members to abide by. This is crucial to relieve suffering and promote the well-being of patients regardless of the race, religion, ethnicity, or class they belong to. It is also important to ensure that the clinical team is equipped with honest and dedicated professionals. 

To maintain and optimize a physician’s discipline in NY, there’s the New York Medical Conduct Program. 

What is the New York Medical Conduct Program? 

Each year, hundreds and thousands of complaints are lodged against physicians in New York. While just about every NY licensed physician is honorable and dedicated to treating patients and saving lives,  accidents do happen, sometimes negligently and sometimes just due to the misfortune of something happening beyond their control. 

The State Board for Professional Medical Conduct, New York, and the Health Department’s Office of Professional Medical Conduct (OPMC) aim to investigate and adjust complaints filed against the physicians, assistants, or other medical staff associated with the particular complaint. Each year the OPMC and the state board tackle these complaints and school the clinical staff members against which the complaints are lodged. 

Doctor looking at screen in an emergency room
Photo: Unsplash

The committee consists of two-thirds of experienced physicians and one-third of lay members, which could also be physician assistants. Who decides which physicians will be on the board? Well, the physicians are appointed by the state, county, and specialty medical societies in the USA. 

On the other hand, the lay members are nominated by the commissioner of health and the governor of the state. The committee members are chosen through strict surveillance to ensure they are fair, professional, and well-suited for the job. 

Who Can File Complaints About NY Professional Misconduct?

Medical Specialist writing notes by two computers
Photo: Scott Graham, Unsplash

The majority of the complaints against medical staff come from the public, including patients, colleagues, and sometimes family members. Basically, anyone with a solid objection against a healthcare professional can lodge a complaint. 

All licensed health specialists are required to report coworkers whom they may suspect of misconduct. If a professional physician, physician assistant, special assistant, or anyone on the clinical staff sees that their colleague’s actions are susceptible, they should contact OMPC immediately. In case the college is affiliated with another hospital, but you’re aware of his/her misconduct, you can report to the county medical society of the state you are in, which will report to OPMC. 

Please note that all calls and complaints are confidential, so you don’t need to worry about your identity getting revealed. In case you’re not sure if your colleague’s questionable actions constitute wrongdoing, you can contact OPMC and get their advice on it without revealing the practitioner’s identity.  

What Needs to be Reported?

Business women talking in a conference room
Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

Many times, OPMC fails to take any legal action due to a lack of sufficient evidence for a charge of misconduct against a professional physician. However, this should not stop you from taking the right action, i.e., file a complaint against the wrongdoer. 

Physicians should be charged with misconduct if they admit they failed to provide adequate medical assistance to their patients or they did not properly monitor their condition or treatment. Physicians should also be reported in the following circumstances:

      • They exploited a patient for sexual favors
      • Conducted inappropriate moral behavior
      • Being careless with a patient’s treatment
      • Practicing under the influence of drug or alcohol
      • Being impaired by physical or mentally
      • Being biased or unfair due to a patient’s cultural, ethnic, or religious background
      • Practicing on a suspended license
      • Failing to fulfill a patient’s request concerning medical assistance
      • Revealing a patient’s personal data or medical history without the patient’s consent
      • Ordering a patient for unnecessary tests or treatments
      • Allowing unlicensed professionals to perform professional services
      • Failing to maintain an accurate medical record of the patient

What Happens After a Complaint is Lodged? 

Once a complaint is lodged against medical professional, OPMC reviews it and investigates the medical staff. Many times, the complaints come up due to miscommunication or misunderstanding and thus do not constitute misconduct. 

Misconduct issues are handed over to investigators that interview the complainants and those against whom the complaints have been raised. Interviews are usually carried out through email, phone, or one-to-one chat. 

If the board members find a certain physician guilty, they are authorized to take action against the professional. For example, they can suspend the physician’s license for a certain period of time until the offender completes training education, or rehabilitation. The board may also exempt the physician from performing a certain type of practice or limit their practice to a specific region. The punishment is usually decided based on the nature of the offense conducted by the malefactor. 


The Office of Professional Medical Conduct aims to take disciplinary and other actions against physicians, physician assistants, and special assistants. The purpose is solely to ensure all the practitioners follow the code of conduct and provide top-class medical assistance to all patients in New York. 

If you know a colleague who has been involved in the above-stated misconduct or if you have personally experienced a doctor misbehaving with you or mishandling your case, you should follow up with the Office of Professional Medical Conduct (email: opmc@health.ny.gov) so that the issue is not repeated with other patients. 


Physician Discipline and Conduct

A physician reading patient records

New York is home to great many licensed physicians, most of whom are highly capable professionals who display great dedication, care and diligence to help those in need and improve the health of their patients. 

After getting your physician license in New York, you can enter the practical field and begin working as a physician at any medical institute of your preference.

However, it is important to note that there is a serious code of conduct regarding physician discipline, which, if you break in any way you can end up getting your license revoked or even get a temporary suspension from work.

This usually happens in two cases: 

  • The physician’s practice of medicine is seriously deficient 
  • The physician is dishonest in his/her work that can lead to an impairment of the profession as well as the quality of patient care.

Complaints Filed Against Physicians 

In case either of the above-mentioned scenarios does happen to be true, it often results in a complaint being filed against the physician in question.

There are numerous groups of bodies of people who filed the complaints.

They typically include:

  • The public at large such as patients, family members, relatives and friends. More than half the complaints about physicians actually come from the public alone.
  • Licensed health professionals, be it other physicians or physician assistants are required to file a complaint against any physician colleague who they suspect to be guilty of misconduct.
  • Health facilities or organizations where the physician works are also expected to report disciplinary actions that go against the medical code of conduct.

When Do Physicians Get Charged for Misconduct?

There are numerous instances in which doctors may be charged for misconduct.

Some of the most common occurrences include:

  • Guaranteeing a cure to a patient without any research or confirmation.
  • Being involved in drugs and alcohol.
  • Neglecting a patient in need who required immediate care and attention.
  • Harassing, abusing or intimidating a patient.
  • Failure to maintain proper records of patients that reflect their accurate medical evaluations.
  • Performing a medical treatment or service that hasn’t been approved or authorized by the patient.
  • Exploiting the patient by selling drugs, goods or other services in an exploitative manner.
  • Displaying bias towards a patient on the basis of their creed, race, color or origin.
  • Revealing personal information about a patient without their consent except when authorized by the law.
  • Allowing people without a license to perform a medical activity that does, in fact, require a license.
  • Continuing your professional practice with an inactive or a suspended license.

Who Gets Reported?

There have been numerous cases in the past that have ended with the physician in question being reported and subject to disciplinary action.

Some of the case examples include:

  • Failure to treat a patient with an ovarian cyst and an inability to properly investigate a patient’s medical history who complained of chest pain. This created a case of serious incompetence where the physician had to surrender his license.
  • Pleading guilty for conducting moral unfitness by displaying sexual inappropriateness with a patient leading to a suspension of license.
  • Failure to perform ultrasound examinations of a patient leading to an inability to interpret the reading, which resulted in their license being revoked due to incompetence and negligence.
  • Guilty of prescribing medicines and drugs to a patient without conducting any medical check-up or analyzing their medical history.
  • Giving too high a drug dosage to the patient against what should’ve been given that created dangerous side effects.
  • Found guilty of writing notes for patients stating that they were disabled in an attempt to get fare discounts on rail lines, subways and other areas where discounts can be exploited. The physician in question had his license suspended for five years and then five years of probation during which the doctor had to perform community service.

Different Types of Penalties for Misconduct 

Physicians in New York are subject to a variety of penalties for misconduct based on the extremity and seriousness of their doings.

The medical board is expected to take whatever action necessary against a medical professional’s license.

These actions typically include:

  • Community service for 500 hours or more
  • Annulment of a license of registration
  • Being reprimanded or censured
  • A fine up to $10, 000 for each type of guilt performed by the individual
  • Revocation
  • Different types of suspensions, such as partial suspension or actual suspension for a fixed time period.
  • Limiting the physician’s license to a particular medical practice or area
  • Making one take a course of training or educating for a definite period of time

Who Handles the Complaints?

The New York State Office of Professional Medical Contact (OPMC) follows through with any complaints that are brought to their attention. 

Final Word

There are a few important things to note about the New York State physician license.

Firstly, the ultimate disciplinary actions are public information, and once the physician is served, the charges filed against them will be made public.

Secondly, the investigative files are highly confidential that may include previously closed complaints, ongoing investigations as well as the identities of the complainants.

Lastly, resolving complaints against physicians can take a lot of time, even months, given how medical conduct investigations are so complex in nature. Some cases end up going to court hearings that can potentially take even longer than that.

However, a timely investigation is always a priority in order to protect the patients as well as the medical organization in question.

What You Need to Know About Obtaining a New York State Physician License

A physician at work

In our previous article, we gave a brief overview of how to get a physician licence in the state of New York. Now, let’s delve further into this process in order to get a more detailed idea of the process for obtaining a licence. 

In the state of New York, the New York State Education Department’s Office of the Professions, together with the New York State Board for Medicine regulates the licensing for practitioners and physicians. Here’s some essential information you will need to know about this process. 

Limits of a Physician’s License 

Even though New York State is responsible for authorizing licensure for physicians treating a wide array of conditions, the state does not certify physicians who are choosing to specialize in a particular field. These may include specialty areas such as surgery, internal medicine, pediatrics, gynecology and many subspecialties. The designations that physicians use are primarily decided by specialty certification boards of organizations meant for licensed professionals. Other limitations may also include periodic renewal, prohibiting applications for DEA or practicing telemedicine until the state license is completed. 

No Room for Error 

Man handing woman a pen to sign a contract
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

The Application for Licensure and First Registration includes information about your education, examinations taken, criminal records and other personal histories. Even though there’s a long application process in getting your license, you must pay attention to every detail and avoid any mistakes. All documents you submit either on paper or online are official; hence, one should always take their time to complete these forms carefully, making sure that the name and other information are used in exactly the same way on each document. Any errors in these would cause many months of delays and complications in the licensing process or even render the application void. 

On the off chance of an unexplained delay in your licensing, here are a few steps you can take: 

If you have a copy of the application, review it for errors, speak to your supervisor, request an update by sending a formal letter, call your soon-to-be-employer in case you have signed a contract because they may be able to help sort out the problem.

Renewal of Your license 

Even though your professional license is good for life, once you are issued your license, you are periodically required to renew it every two years with the help of the New York State Education Department’s Office of the Professions. As per regulation, if your license is nearing its expiration date, you must get it renewed within five months before it expires. At the same time, if it does expire, don’t prolong the renewal process more than for months.

Doctor with Stethoscope

The Office of the Professions will duly notify you that your license is nearing its expiration date, but in case you don’t receive a notice from them, it’s your job to get it renewed accordingly. If one misses their renewal deadline, they will have to contact the board for a Delayed Registration Application and may be fined or face disciplinary action. 

Suspension and Revocation 

NYS Medical Laws and Regulations under education law Article 131-A- are very strict in defining malpractice, incompetence, and grounds for revoking a physician’s license. On the occasion of a complaint, the OPMC (Office of Professional Medical Conduct) will initiate an investigation and carry out a hearing. 

In such a situation, the licensee will have 30 days to comply with written communications from the department of health and to make available any relevant records in regard to the inquiry/complaint about the licensee’s professional misconduct. This period begins as soon as the state department initiates their communication and makes the circumstance known to the physician in question. The board can impose many penalties, including suspension or revocation of a physician’s license, limiting the physician’s practice to a specific area or fine up to $10,000.

A Physician Information Profile 

Picture of 2 people reviewing a contract
Photo by Gustavo Fring from Pexels

New York State has made it a requirement for a licensee to use the Federation Credentials Verification Service to centralize one’s documentation and certification. The service provides a very convenient and quick way for you to manage all your licenses and credentials in one place, which can be used by state medical boards for obtaining education information verified by the primary source for those applying for licensure. 

After a physician’s documentation and identity verification, a “Physician Information Profile” is made, which can be accessed by you anytime and can be sent to any state board or institution of your choice. Once your profile is received by New York State, they will carry out necessary evaluations to ensure that your education complies with New York licensure requirements. It also allows others to screen your application for errors, makes applying for licenses a lot easier in the future and benefits physicians in helping them file their qualifications to achieve a career in medicine.  

Mental Health

Photo by cottonbro from Pexels

There has been a long-standing debate regarding mental health within the medical professional community where individuals are reluctant to seek care for mental health in concerns that doing so could affect their license to practice. Under a survey of Physician-Friendly States for Mental Health published in the Qualitative Research in Medicine and Healthcare, it was noted that New York happens to be one of those states that are incredibly physician-friendly, with no mental health or impairment questions.

In another analysis of medical licensure application questions, New York State’s application process was one of the 16 medical license boards’ applications that were rated as “consistent,” in which the rating depended on the application either refraining from asking about mental health conditions or limited their questions to “current impairment” from a mental health condition. 

On a separate note, but one which newly licensed attorneys (and physicians) should be aware of during this COVID-19 crisis,  Carolyn Wolf, Executive Partner in Howard Fensterman’s law firm has recently written an article in Psychology Today on Liability Concerns When Practitioners Return to the Office

It may be a long process to get a physician’s license, but if an applicant keeps these few things in mind, your licensure may come as normally regulated without any mishaps or extra procedures and it is time for celebration!

How to Get a Physician License in New York

doctor holding red stethoscope

It’s no secret that the medical profession involves a complex series of training and exams before a doctor can enter the medical field. However, getting a physician license in the Big Apple tends to present a whole new set of challenges on its own.  

The process requires you to pass multiple Medical Licensure Examinations, complete a residency program, collect certain certificates and meet other eligibility criteria before you can even apply. It goes without saying, there’s a hefty amount of paperwork involved too.  

The following article covers the basics of what you generally need to know.

Regulation of MDs in the State

The New York State Board of Medicine governs the rules and regulations for licensing and practicing medicine in the region.  

However, the Office of the Professions, a part of the New York State Education Department also plays an important role. In fact, it is the main body that maintains the records and licensing information, in addition to issuing the permit itself.

The application and fees for the license need to be submitted to the Office of the Professions.

General Requirements

According to the State’s Board of Medicine, anyone interested in working as a physician in New York must:

  • Be aged 21 or above
  • Have a good moral character
  • Fulfill the academic, examination, and experience criteria (discussed in detail later)
  • File an application along with the specified fee in full 

Licensing Fee

Currently, the application fee for obtaining a physician license in New York is $735. 

Note that this is separate from all the test registration fees which ought to be submitted at the time of appearing for the respective exam. 

The licensing fee is subject to change, so make sure to check if it has been revised at the time you apply. 

Applicants can pay the fees via money order or a personal check. Cash is not acceptable. 

The check/ money order, along with the application form needs to be mailed to:

New York State Education Dept
Office of the Professions
P.O. Box 22063
Albany, NY 12201

If you are a foreign practitioner applying from outside the U.S., make sure that you make the payment on a U.S. bank and in U.S. currency.

Education and Experience Requirements

Based on the education and experience required, the eligibility criteria for becoming a licensed physician in New York can be divided into four main parts:

  1. Get an ECFMG certificate (for foreign candidates only)
  2. Register with FCVS
  3. Complete a residency program
  4. Pass USMLE Step 3 Exam

Completing each of these steps is a long and hard journey and can constitute a lengthy guide of its own. Here, we have highlighted the major aspects of each article that can provide you with a good idea of what’s involved.

Get an ECFMG Certificate

If you have received your degree from a medical school located outside the U.S., you will need an ECFMG certificate.

The Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) is a governing body that helps international candidates find and pursue a career in medicine in the U.S.

In order to get certified by the ECFMG, you will need to submit an identification form along with your final medical school transcript.

You can submit your documents in hardcopy although they have an online portal to make things more convenient. 

You will also need to pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1 and Step 2 exams. The total fees for each of these exams is $790. The Step 2 exam has a second module that costs an additional $1,375.

Register with FCVS

The Federation Credentials Verification Service (FCVS) provides a standard for the relevant authorities in all states to view and verify the medical credentials of any physician practicing in the country. 

You can register online or send your application by mail. The documents required for this step include photocopies of your:

  • Medical degree
  • Clinical clerkship
  • Training certificate
  • ECFMG certificate
  • Proof of identification 

The charges for this step range upwards of $325.

Complete a Residency Program

Once you have created a profile at FCVS, you need to find a residency program, sometimes also called a fellowship program. These medical training programs must be endorsed by the Accrediting Council on Graduate Medical Education. 

Generally, residency programs take 3 to 7 years to complete. But in some cases, you can apply for the next step while still serving as a resident.

Pass USMLE Step 3

The last requirement for receiving a physician license in New York is to clear the USMLE Step 3 exam.

To save time, you can fill out the application form before appearing for this module. However, the license will not be issued until you have submitted proof of passing this exam.

According to the USMLE board, it’s best to take Step 3 after competing (or when you are close to completing) the first year of your postgraduate training in a U.S.-accredited medical education program.

End Note

We hope this gives you a general idea of what’s involved regarding acquiring a physician’s license. We suggest you follow up with researching the processes and exams mentioned. If we were to provide all the information here, it would probably extend to over 100 web pages. 

With that said, here is a general summary. There is a required completion of a residency program of a minimum of three years (in any state) as well as passing Step 1 to 3 of the USMLE test. Your eligibility for becoming a licensed physician is also subject to various additions certifications but all in all, it is well worth it. According to the data collected by Indeed, physicians in New York have an average annual income of at least $230,000 – which is a whopping 15% above the national average!

What is the SHIN-NY?

Many New Yorkers are asking about SHIN-NY and sPRL. Here are some helpful answers to your questions.

What is the SHIN-NY?

The Statewide Health Information Network of New York (SHIN-NY) is a secure information network that enables the exchange of patient data in New York State. The SHIN-NY is a “network of networks” comprised of nine independent Regional Health Information Organizations (RHIOs). It is governed by the New York State Department of Health and coordinated by the New York eHealth Collaborative (NYeC). By participating in a local RHIO, healthcare providers can access clinical data for patients who have provided consent. Once a provider connects to a RHIO, they are automatically connected to the SHIN-NY.

What is required to participate in a RHIO?

To become a member of a RHIO, a provider needs to sign a “participation agreement.” A healthcare provider can obtain access through a clinical viewer or portal. While there is no cost to receive basic RHIO services, there may be a cost to connect to a RHIO if a custom interface is required. Providers should contact their RHIO for additional participant information.

What does it mean to connect to the SHIN-NY?

The SHIN-NY is the interconnected network of RHIOs. By connecting to a RHIO, the provider is also connected into the SHIN-NY network. The plan is to make exchange of data statewide by October.

What is a Qualified Entity or QE?

A “Qualified Entity” is similar to a RHIO. The term Qualified Entity is a specific legal term established by the Department of Health to define entities that are certified (“qualified”) to provide clinical record exchange services as part of the SHIN-NY. All RHIOs must pass a certification test before they may be interconnected with other RHIOs to ensure they meet stringent security, privacy, and technology standards.

What is Statewide Patient Record Lookup (sPRL), and how does it work?

sPRL acts like a secure search engine to search for a patient’s data, similar to a “Googling” function, When a healthcare provider enters basic demographic information for a specific patient who has provided their consent, sPRL will return all the records it finds for that patient from each RHIO region. Here’s how it works. When a provider uploads a patient record to the RHIO, the patient’s name is included in the RHIO’s patient index. All RHIO patient indexes are combined into a Master Patient Index for the SHIN-NY as a whole. When a provider looks up a consented patient’s records, the RHIO’s patient index is matched against the statewide Master Patient Index to see what records reside in other RHIOs. When matches between indexes occur, the records show up in the search. Essentially, sPRL allows a healthcare provider to search records across New York State for a particular patient’s information.

How is sPRL different from the existing local Patient Record Lookup (PRL) that a RHIO offers?  What is the additional value?

sPRL allows participating providers to retrieve their patient’s clinical records across the entire statewide network as long as the patient has consented to make his or her records available. While this functionality has already been available within individual RHIOs’ networks, sPRL lets providers search for records across the whole state. So, for example, a family practitioner in Brooklyn can look up her patient’s health records from a provider who treated her in Binghamton.

When will sPRL be available to providers?

To ensure a smooth process, the RHIOs will be starting the interconnection process in groups of three beginning July 7th, 2015. This “onboarding” will continue through the end of September. As RHIOs become fully interconnected, their records will be available to the other interconnected RHIOs. (Of note: if a patient’s records reside in a RHIO that is not yet interconnected, an sPRL search will not show those records yet.) By October, all RHIOs will be interconnected, and providers will have access to all the RHIOs’ records regardless of which RHIO the provider participates in.