Top 4 burning questions doctors ask health care attorneys

Being a Physician Transaction Advocate is never boring because the more regulations, policies and laws change, the more questions everyone has. But it’s about more than just getting an answer to a question and complying with regulations. Physicians feel unduly exhausted and out of control, and the risks their practice faces are real. It contributes to burnout and apathy as it is hard enough to keep track of the changing landscape of clinical medicine. Now you need to become a financial, labor and legal genius? That is much.

As a health care advocate who has been doing this for over twenty years, I wanted to give you the top four questions I hear and how I can help you in these areas.

The first and largest area concerns contract negotiations. Do I really have leeway to negotiate this agreement? Can I get out of the non-competition clause and other onerous conditions? Am I just a pawn in the system or do I actually have influence?

My answer to that is simple: you absolutely have room for negotiation. But you have to find your leverage. Always think like your employer and try to differentiate yourself from your peers and use that influence to your advantage. And remember – some things have specific state laws (like non-compete clauses) so get an attorney to review them before you sign. Once the ink has dried and you’ve signed the contract, there’s no turning back. But please, whatever you do, make sure there is a back door to the agreement without many strings attached. You must be able to leave any job with a given notice period.

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The second area I get asked about all the time is how can a doctor feel safe with all the regulations out there in the compliance world. I get it — between billing and coding, privacy laws and Medicare regulations — it’s a lot to keep up with. My biggest advice is to create a compliance plan. It’s mandated by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but many physicians still lack a solid compliance plan. Make sure it contains the seven items required by the Office of Inspector General and actually use it! Encourage your employees to report problems when they see them instead of fearing they’ll get into trouble. Assign compliance duties to an employee and provide them with the resources to keep tabs on moving targets and at least provide pinpoint warning signals that you can spot. Education is the key.

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Next, I am repeatedly asked about labor law issues. Find out whether you should hire key personnel as contractors or employees, and have a basic employment handbook outlining the rules of your practice. Don’t let employee problems fester and grow, believing that they will resolve themselves. Listen to your employees and if there is a problem, try to solve it early and quickly before it gets out of hand. And make sure you have a non-retaliation policy in place so someone who reports in good faith is not penalized. And consider having someone as a temporary worker where they can be fired at any time and binding them to an employment contract.

Even though this law has been around for over two decades, I get HIPAA questions on a daily basis. Yes, people are still confused about which recordings can be shared with whom. what if someone dies What about mental health notes? This is really an area where having a quick call to your attorney is helpful. But the basics can be done within the walls of your practice. Instead of subscribing to useless training, have your employees perform on the break to check a box, have a very solid speaker come in every few years, and really train on the subject. And remember – it’s not just about privacy, it’s also about security. Do you conduct robust security audits? Do you even know if your data is adequately secured in the event of a cyber attack? And please be mindful of sharing protected health information via phones, general mail and SMS.

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Healthcare is fraught with complexity, and it often takes a team of people to help you navigate the waters. But you’ll be less likely to ask your attorney questions once you understand that you have a voice in contract negotiations, develop a compliance plan, think through your employee relationships, and brush up on HIPAA. And that ultimately saves you money and allows you to focus more on treating patients.

Amanda Hill is a healthcare attorney.

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