Starting a business always comes with legal challenges and it’s important that a new business owner understands and follows the laws that apply to their company. Every business owner is going to face legal challenges at some point whether that be a contract dispute with a vendor or a lawsuit from a client that is unhappy with a product or service. But some industries experience far more legal problems than others and the medical industry, in particular, is a legal minefield.
When you’re treating patients and their lives are in your hands, it’s important that everything is done correctly and held to a high standard, which is why there are so many rules and regulations around healthcare. The current political climate also means that the way that healthcare works, especially funding, is changing a lot and that brings fresh new legal challenges of its own. If a healthcare business is to survive, they need to stay up to date with the law and keep on top of any changes so they can always be sure that they’re doing things by the book. As the landscape changes, it is important that all medical businesses are aware of these legal challenges.
Medical malpractice is not a new legal problem, but it’s one that isn’t going to go away anytime soon and it may become more complicated as the healthcare industry becomes more reliant on technology for treating patients. All doctors must take the Hippocratic oath and promise that they will do their utmost to help patients and will not harm them further, but sometimes, doctors break that oath. If a patient is harmed through deliberate action or, most likely, negligence by a doctor, that medical practice is likely to find itself on the end of a medical malpractice lawsuit. It is then up to the doctor to prove that they did everything in their power to help the patient and they followed procedure correctly. If they can’t do that, they’re likely to lose the case and have to pay out a large settlement. When it comes to medical malpractice law, the penalties are steep and it’s likely that the doctor will lose their license. The medical business itself may also be forced to close in some cases, so it’s vital that the situation is avoided at all costs.
The best way to avoid medical malpractice is to hire the right people and ensure that all doctors have good experience. Doing background checks to make sure that they haven’t been involved in cases like this in the past is always recommended as well. It’s important that all procedures are followed to the letter, regardless of how insignificant they may seem, because even the smallest slip up could land a medical business in legal trouble.
Data protection is a big concern for all businesses because companies have a responsibility to protect the sensitive information that they hold about their customers. In the medical industry, it’s particularly important because the data that they hold about patients is far more sensitive than any other business, which is why there are strict laws around data protection compliance in healthcare businesses. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was passed in order to protect the healthcare records of patients and ensure that all medical practices were following proper procedure to protect that data.
In the past, HIPAA compliance wasn’t a huge expense for medical businesses but technological advancement means that everything is stored online now and a lot of new medical equipment also holds information about patients. That means that all of the data is more vulnerable to cyber-attack, which is a big legal issue for the medical industry. Online attacks are on the rise and it’s up to the practice to take the necessary steps to protect all of the patient information that they hold. If a medical business is the victim of an attack and it is believed that they weren’t observing HIPAA compliance rules properly, they will find themselves in serious legal trouble.
The easiest way to avoid that is through investment in security systems. All medical practices need a dedicated IT team that can properly implement the right security software and keep it updated as necessary, so the likelihood of an attack is reduced. However, it is not possible to completely avoid cyber-attacks as criminals will find ways around security software as it is updated, which means that preparation is important as well. All medical practices should have a plan in place to deal with a cyber-attack so they can limit the damage and secure systems before too much data can be stolen.
New technology is always changing the way that doctors diagnose and treat patients. Innovations make it easier for doctors to accurately diagnose problems and treatments are becoming more effective all of the time, which is great news. However, that new technology does often bring new legal challenges along with it. Telemedicine is one of the latest innovations in medicine and it’s having a big impact on the healthcare industry, but there are a lot of legal issues surrounding it that need to be worked out. Telemedicine is defined as the delivery of medical advice using electronic communications, between a patient in one location and a doctor in another. It’s very beneficial because it means that doctors can be more flexible and help patients that can’t necessarily get to the practice easily. But it does raise questions when the doctor and the patient are in different locations. For example, a doctor needs to be licensed to practice medicine in the state that they’re treating patients in, but what if the patient is in a different state where the doctor doesn’t have a license? The doctor has a license where they are, but they don’t have one where the patient is.
Medical malpractice insurance is another problem because it doesn’t often cover telemedicine. If a doctor gives bad advice that harms a patient, the practice might not be covered for it and that means they will have to pay the settlement out of their own pocket. There are some insurance packages that also cover telemedicine so it’s important that medical businesses check their policy thoroughly to ensure that they have the protection that they need.
In some states, there are specific laws around the patient-physician relationship where telemedicine is concerned. It may be the case that telemedicine is prohibited until the patient and doctor have established a relationship with a face to face meeting. If a medical practice is offering telemedicine services to a patient that hasn’t had a standard appointment with their physician, they could be on the wrong side of the law.
The laws around new technology like this are tricky because it’s uncharted territory and a lot of the time, the legal system is playing catch-up. That means that legislation can change quickly and medical businesses need to ensure that they stay up to date.
The False Claims Act
The False Claims Act is designed to stop fraud against the government. In the medical business, it relates to claims for Medicare and Medicaid payments and if false claims are made, the medical practice can be held accountable as well as the patient themselves. It’s up to medical practice to ensure that all claims are legitimate and if they don’t, they could find themselves in legal trouble. A lot of practices end up on the wrong side of the law because they fail to report mistakes in payments. If a mistake occurs, it needs to be reported right away, otherwise, the medical practice can be held to account.
There has been a big increase in cases involving whistleblowers and often, it is a rival medical practice that is involved because they want to gain an edge over their competitors. That’s why it’s more important than ever for medical practices to ensure that they’re checking all payments properly and reporting any mistakes, no matter how minor.
The False Claims Act also covers instances of pharmaceutical companies encouraging medical practices to overuse their products by offering them incentives like money as well as dinners, drinks, entertainment, and travel. These cases can sometimes be linked to medical malpractice is physicians are prescribing treatments and medications that the patient doesn’t really need. It’s so important that medical practices always prioritize patient care and choose the best treatments for them, rather than allowing themselves to be swayed by incentives to pharmaceutical companies. As a general rule, accepting gifts of any kind from a supplier is always a risk as it could be seen as a conflict of interest and may lead to legal trouble.
The changing landscape in the healthcare industry is constantly throwing new legal challenges into the mix. If medical practices are not up to date with current legislation and they don’t have a clear understanding of how new developments affect them, it’s likely that they’ll end up in some serious legal trouble. These are some of the biggest legal issues that all medical practices need to be aware of right now, but new issues are likely to arise in the near future.