By: Jeff Cohen
A new law passed by the Florida Legislature shaves off some of the sharp edges of Florida law that applies to physicians who are impaired by substance abuse or mental illness. The hub of treatment referenced in the law is the Impaired Practitioner Program (IPP). Over the years, the IPP (a quasi-governmental entity) has come under fire for being too aggressive in how it deals with impaired physicians, by acting more like law enforcement than a healthcare provider. Allegations in the past include physicians feeling “hauled off” to treatment before the demonstrated need was clear and being directed to providers that were expensive or inconvenient with reasonable alternatives exist.
The new law rounds out the IPP operations in creating additional accountability through the appointment by the Department of Health (DOH) of one or more consultants. It also:
- allows certain providers to report an impaired practitioner to a consultant instead of the DOH. Some in the program felt they were being leveraged into cooperating when they felt it was counter-indicated. This measure might help balance the issues by interposing an independent consultant that is not under the IPP;
- prevents the consultant from reporting to DOH a practitioner who is self referring for treatment, but keeps intact features of accountability to help ensure the practitioner completes treatment;
- requires the consultant to copy the patient and any legal representative on any information release; and
- protects the consultant by extending sovereign immunity to him/her.
Healthcare professionals interacting with the IPP need to know their rights and options. The new law helps facilitate that.