In today’s world, almost all physicians and physician groups find themselves facing difficult situations from time to time. In most cases, the problem involves issues with patients or employees, business relationships that develop complications, or attorneys asking for information for clients who are pursuing lawsuits. When these situations present themselves, it’s imperative for the physicians or physician groups to retain legal counsel that has the experience and knowledge to deal with all aspects of these complex cases.
Legal Issues and Employees
While most workplace environments have legal issues with employees, healthcare workplaces face many unique circumstances. Due to the regulations surrounding HIPAA compliance, any actions taken against employees must be carefully thought-out and implemented by physicians and Human Resource managers. For example, disciplinary actions taken against disgruntled employees may result in that person choosing to label themselves a “whistleblower,” enabling them to certain employment law protections. If an employee chooses to go this route, chances are they are determined to cause as much trouble as possible on the way out. Therefore, an attorney skilled in these situations can provide advice when it comes to exit interviews with employees who are being terminated. This advice can be of particular importance when disciplinary action has been taken against an employee who is thought to have violated HIPAA policies and procedures, since these laws are very complex when grouped with regular employment laws.
While issues with employees can be very troublesome for physicians and physician groups, it is problems experienced with patients that can sometimes lead to legal situations that can last for years. In many of these cases, healthcare providers often choose to terminate the relationship, which seems to be the logical choice. However, if these breakups are not handled carefully, the results can be even more problems requiring the advice of legal counsel. Otherwise, a disgruntled patient may choose to make allegations of patient abandonment or a breach of provider agreements. If this happens, physicians can expect to have a difficult and potentially costly case on their hands. In addition to this, physicians and physician groups usually have to deal with patients making complaints to government agencies, which lead to more allegations that must be addressed. Because of this, healthcare providers must let their legal counsel review any correspondence between patients and providers, making sure all actions are properly addressed.
Requests and Subpoenas
In almost all of these situations, physicians can expect to receive requests and subpoenas for medical records and other information related to the patient’s case against them. When this occurs, under no circumstances should the healthcare providers go it alone. Legal counsel should be contacted immediately to be made aware of the requests, and they should be allowed to examine the requests to ensure there are no demands that are unreasonable. It is also important for physicians to remember that HIPAA and state laws often play a pivotal role in whether these requests will be granted. While in most practices there are written policies and procedures for giving out patient information, there are those rare times when some situations have not been encountered. When this happens, these issues must be discussed with legal counsel in order to answer any questions and clarify the process.
Medical Policies and Procedures
While most physicians realize they need knowledgeable and experienced attorneys when problems arise with disgruntled patients and employees, they sometimes forget that there are many other issues that may require the services of a lawyer who specializes in medical practice issues. Among the most important are medical treatment for employees and social media usage by employees, which in recent years has become one of the most talked-about and controversial topics in workplaces. These topics are often related to various aspects of healthcare law, and may in fact be related to HIPAA and other compliance regulations. To ensure a physician or physician group does not cross the line and open themselves up to possible litigation, it’s vital to have an experienced attorney review any office policies to ensure no laws are being violated.
Without a doubt, physicians understand the importance of maintaining their state licensing to practice medicine. However, when problems arise due to complaints from employees or patients, the licensing may be at risk of getting revoked by a state licensing board. If this situation presents itself, an attorney who has a background in these matters in needed more than ever. Otherwise, it’s quite likely a physician or physician group could find themselves caught up in a domino effect that leads to licenses being lost and reputations forever tarnished. To keep this from happening, an attorney who understands the consequences of these matters can work with physicians, licensing organizations, and patients or employees to bring about a resolution that will satisfy all parties involved in the dispute.
For a physician or physician group to build and maintain a successful practice, it’s crucial to establish hospital privileges in order to provide continued care to patients. However, if a complaint or dispute results in those privileges being revoked, it could spell disaster for current as well as future employment. By having an attorney who understands the complexities associated with these conflicts, a healthcare provider can be guided through the appeals process and be ensured of having fair and knowledgeable representation every step of the way. In doing so, their careers can continue on an upward path.
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