Health law is the federal, state, and local law, rules, regulations and other jurisprudence among providers, payers and vendors to the healthcare industry and its patient and delivery of health care services; all with an emphasis on operations, regulatory and transactional legal issues.
Deciding you want to open your own medspa or start a medical practice is the first and most important step in creating something unique and building a brand. Understanding how to properly “start” that business from a legal perspective, and doing so correctly can be the difference between success and failure.
As a physician in a private, solo-practice, or the business owner of a medspa startup, proper strategy is key. Understanding your corporate structure, developing a business plan, and compliance with the laws will help eliminate pesky obstacles that will slow your growth.
When working with start-ups the following steps should be given plenty of time and attention. read more
Many physician groups and health care companies will enter the market at some point to sell their business. In the rare case, the selling group will already have a buyer who is ready and willing to pay and close on the business sale. More often than not however, most sellers will utilize the services of a business broker to help find a suitable buyer, and will compensate the broker on a commission basis upon closing. Unlike real estate closings, whereby the main concern is the title of the property being conveyed, medical practice sales require much more detailed representation on all aspects of the business, including but not limited to, real property, existing contracts, existing patients, and medical equipment.
Before signing a business broker listing agreement, ensure that the following points are considered to avoid potential pitfalls: read more
There has been much talk about the future of health care real estate investment trusts (REIT) and the evolution of the real estate market, as well as the way patient care is being provided in today’s world. With greater demand for outpatient and ambulatory surgical centers, the healthcare REIT market is forecasted to be a bullish market. Additional reasons for positive forecasts include an aging population with greater demand, a track record of high performance, and cost of equity capital. Investing in income-generating real estate can be a great way to increase net worth. For many, investing in real estate, particularly commercial real estate, seems to be out of reach financially. However, with the right partnerships and guidance, it is possible. REITs (pronounced “reets”) allow mall investors today to pool their resources with other small investors in order to invest in large-scale commercial real estate as a group.
Thinking about selling a medical practice? Here are some steps for preparing your business in advance of a transaction.
Visit your financial planner.
Be sure that you can afford to leave the business, if you are retiring. Most times, buyers will require a comprehensive non-compete and you should be absolutely certain that you are financially prepared to retire or sell before you sign that restrictive covenant.
Visit your accountant.
Get your financial history in order. Review and re-review your tax returns and profit statements for the past three years to ensure that the business is appropriately reflected in those records. Take the time to clean up any “creative” bookkeeping so that the buyer is given a complete and accurate picture of the business they are buying into. You are likely going to have to make a representation that your financial disclosures are true, so take the time to get comfortable with that representation early on. read more
Private money (e.g. private equity) is in full swing purchasing medical practices with large profit margins (e.g. dermatology). This is NOT the same thing as when physician practice management companies (PPMCs) bought practices the 90s. Back then, the stimulus for the seller was (a) uncertainty re practice profits in the future, and (b) the stock price. Selling practices got some or all of the purchase price in stock, with the hopes the purchasing company stock would far exceed the multiplier applied to practice “earnings” (the “multiple”). Buyers promised to stabilize and even enhance revenues with better management and better payer contracting. If the optimism of the acquiring company and selling doctors was on target, everyone won because the large stock price made money for both the buyer and seller. The private equity “play” today is a little different.
Today’s sellers are approaching the private equity opportunity the same way they did with PPMCs, except for the stock focus since most private equity purchases don’t involve selling doctors obtaining stock. Sellers hope their current practice earnings will equate to a large “purchase price.” And they hope the buyer have better front and back office management that will result in more stable and even enhanced earnings. And for this, the private equity buyer takes a “management fee,” which they typically promise (though not in writing) to offset with enhanced practice earnings. read more
The transition from paper medical records to electronic medical records has brought with it many conveniences and some unintended consequences. One example of an unintended consequence is cloning in the medical record. Cloning is copying and pasting previously recorded information from a prior patient note into a new patient note.
Providing quality medical care is only one part of the job. Appropriately documenting that care in order to be paid for your efforts is another. And while medical professionals are trained at length to provide care, hardly any are aware of the potential pitfalls associated with improper documentation.
Private money (e.g. private equity) is back chasing those selling medical practices and medical business acquisitions. This time around it is very different from similar activity in the 90s. Back then, the movement was public companies aggregating gross income dollars, which for a time drove stock prices. Today’s private money buyers are looking to maximize profitability through achieving efficiency and aggregating large groups for leverage and the development of new income streams. Though stock (in the form of warrants and options or stock itself) if often on the table, it doesn’t have to be. Buyers are doing all cash deals, albeit to some degree on an earnings basis. If you want the full price, you have to remain involved and do what you can to maintain revenues and perhaps even drive them up.
Physicians especially have to know what they’re dealing with and then have at least a basic understanding of the issues that will drive these deals. To begin with, “private equity” simply means private investors (typically a group that pools their capital) that buy a portion or all of a company. Their investments are usually much larger than venture capital firm deals. They are not publicly traded entities. What do they want? To invest money in mature businesses, grow a company’s profitability and then “flip” their ownership to another buyer, typically in three to five years form their launch date. In contrast, venture capital firms usually invest in start-ups, buy 100% of the company and require control. read more
As healthcare professionals, we take pride and care in the detail in maintaining our employee files. Certain items must be separated from the others, files securely locked and out of reach from co-workers hands. Personnel’s personal information must be protected. We all know these things and probably already have a procedure in place for compliance.
Whether your facility has been deemed accredited (Joint Commission, for example) or just starting up, employee files must be maintained, reviewed, audited, and kept according to retention requirements. Knowing which laws apply aids in keeping your business compliant. For example, pursuant to ERISA laws, there is no specific time period to maintain records that reflect age, marital status and/or service records. The Social Security Acts states that employees’ social security numbers must be kept four years from the tax due date or payment of tax, whichever is later. So, there’s a lot of tracking going on. read more
“Prevention is better than cure” is a maxim that has reigned in the healthcare industry for thousands of years; however, this phrase echoes through the halls of the legal profession as well.
Healthcare practices often neglect to appreciate the value of their confidential information as assets and the need to protect these assets. Although HIPAA and HITECH compliance aids in maintaining the confidentiality of patient records, it does not protect a provider’s trade secrets.
Trade secrets of a healthcare practice may include any of the following: patient lists, financial information, contract rates, contract terms client lists, collection rates, marketing tactics, pricing/discount information, and methods of doing business. If leaked, this information may be used by competitors to secure advantages over a healthcare practice. For example, patient lists could be used to solicit a practice’s patients or contract rates and terms can be used by a competitor to undercut the rates of a practice. read more
There will likely come a time in your practice when you find yourself considering whether you should maintain a relationship with a patient. It may be that the patient is non-cooperative. Or the patient may refuse to pay his or her bill, or to follow a reasonable payment plan. Even more significantly, the patient may have engaged in behavior that is disruptive to your practice. For whatever reason, you are questioning the value of the relationship.
In those situations, the law does allow a physician to terminate a patient from his or her practice. However, careful analysis must be done in these situations, and there are several steps that should be followed. The risk of a claim of abandonment or of professional negligence makes it important to protect yourself, your practice, and the licenses of the providers within your group. You may already have a process spelled out in your policies and procedures, and if you do, that process should be followed. However, make sure your policy at least covers the points below. read more