The list of compliance and legal challenges facing providers, hospitals and healthcare systems over the next year is long:
- Physician arrangements and fair market value;
- Mergers and acquisitions;
- Quality metrics and risk sharing;
- Fraud, waste, and abuse;
- Coding and billing transactions;
- Medical staff issues and burnout;
- Labor and employment issues;
- HIPAA and HITECH; and
- Technology and integrated medical devices.
A list like this can seem daunting. However, a comprehensive compliance program with appropriate resources can help avoid disastrous results related to healthcare compliance and legal challenges.
Labor and Employment Law
The Atlantic reported in January 2018, “Health Care Just Became the U.S.’s Largest Employer In the American labor market.” The growth of the healthcare sector brings increased labor and employment challenges. Although the terms are often used synonymously, labor law focuses on groups of workers (think unions and collective bargaining) while employment law focuses on individual workers, (think discrimination of an individual in a protected class).
A comprehensive compliance program will decrease labor and employment law challenges, by ensuring human resource policies and procedures comply with federal and state laws. Moreover, personnel file audits will demonstrate compliance with those laws.
Mergers, acquisitions, partnerships, joint ventures and U.S. antitrust law
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) reported in its 2018 National Healthcare Quality & Disparities Report that almost 70% of U.S. hospitals and 43% of primary care physicians are part of consolidated health care systems. Consolidations require an astute compliance and legal team to ensure compliance with antitrust law. These transactions continue to draw scrutiny from the Federal Trade Commission due to monopoly concerns.
The challenge for healthcare organizations is even greater when business crosses state lines. The organization must then comply with multiple state laws simultaneously. As part of a comprehensive compliance program, a compliance professional should work closely with in-house or outside counsel to ensure the business transactions and consolidations include a compliance due diligence perspective, for example reports to the board of directors.
Compliance is mandatory; failure to comply is an opportunity to ruin an organization both financially and reputationally. Ransomware attacks on healthcare providers through their computers and medical devices are on the rise. While most IT departments focus on HIPAA security for computers, few address security issues with interconnected medical devices.
A comprehensive compliance program will include recommendations to address the management of cybersecurity for medical devices like those outlined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
- Use of reports to support legal defense of employment or labor law violations, if needed.
- Use of notification and management system to prevent legal challenges by providing up-to-date guidance to support compliance activities.
- Conduct an evaluation of medical devices in accordance with the FDA FAQ. Disable the voice recognition feature of smart devices while conducting confidential discussions in a room with a smart TV or speaker.
A system such as youCompli is a strong addition to a comprehensive compliance program, providing up to date notifications of regulatory change, as well as full insight and audit of the compliance process.
Denise Atwood, RN, JD, CPHRM
District Medical Group (DMG), Inc., Chief Risk Officer and owner of Denise Atwood, PLLC
Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article or blog are the author’s and do not represent the opinions of DMG.
Denise Atwood, RN, JD, CPHRM has over 30 years of healthcare experience in compliance, risk management, quality, and clinical areas. She is also a published author and educator on risk, compliance, medical-legal and ethics issues. She is currently the Chief Risk Officer and Associate General Counsel at a nonprofit, multispecialty provider group in Phoenix, Arizona and Vice President of the company’s self-insurance captive.