As employers begin to consider opening their offices and bringing back their employees and inviting other people into their offices, such as patients, there are many issues that should be considered and planned for BEFORE the front door is opened.
Quick Legal Advice – COVID-19 is new to everyone, including Government regulators and plaintiff lawyers, so we are all learning as we go along. The best legal advice in these uncertain times is:
Find out what other similar situated companies are doing, as you may be held to their standards;
Find checklists and advice from well reputable entities;
Document your decisions; and
OPENING YOUR DOOR TO YOUR EMPLOYEES
As an employer you have a responsibility to provide a safe working environment, and as of today it is clear that the following is a minimal list of considerations:
Like most medical practices and businesses in Florida, dental practices have been deemed non-essential except for emergency type services. For good reason, non-life threatening care, surgeries and services are put on hold to help curb the spread of COVID-19, which has left providers with the question of what they can do to maintain and treat patients remotely.
Teledentistry is the use of a telehealth system through a variety of different technologies to deliver virtual health services, including dentistry.
Telehealth includes live video (synchronous), store and forward (asynchronous), remote monitoring, and mobile health. Live video is a live, two-way transmission of audiovisual telecommunications. Store and forward is a recorded file of the patient’s health information. Remote monitoring allows a provider to track patient health data through the use of devices which transmit data to a portal which the provider can securely access. Mobile health is the use of personal devices to share health information and education.
The ADA has echoed local governments calls to alleviate the pressure on emergency services by having healthcare professionals postpone all elective services and non-emergency care. The ADA put forth guidance to help individuals and dentists determine what constitutes a dental emergency, which includes issues that are potentially life threatening and require immediate treatment. Immediate treatment would include stopping bleeding or treating severe pain, infections, or conditions. A more complete guide can be found here.
Employers are approaching us in increasing numbers regarding their obligations toward employees battling substance abuse. Two federal laws primarily govern the space, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Family and Medical Leave Act. Note that state laws may be more restrictive, so we encourage our clients to reach out to local attorneys to determine if additional legal protections are available to employees in their state.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) covers businesses with 15 or more employees to protects workers from discrimination based on a qualifying disability or a perceived disability, which is defined to include alcoholism and illegal drug use. However, to be eligible, the ADA protects only workers who either (i) have successfully been rehabilitated and are no longer using illegal drugs or misusing alcohol; or (ii) are currently participating in a rehabilitation program and are no longer using illegal drugs or misusing alcohol. Importantly, the ADA does not protect any employee who is presently battling alcoholism and illegal drug use and is not participating in a treatment program. An employee in the throes of substance abuse who is not actively seeking treatment is not protected by the ADA.
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.