The COVID-19 virus has and will probably continue to change the way healthcare providers and business associates interact and help their patients. As many providers are aware, a HIPAA violation is a serious issue, and can cost a healthcare entity large amounts of time and money to respond to any regulatory investigation. Recognizing that the COVID-19 pandemic has strained every corner of the economy and is THE MOST IMPORTANT issue for almost every industry, the federal government has rolled back some HIPAA protections. It is unclear how long these rollbacks will last, and it is possible that some of them may be permanent, but for now healthcare providers and their business associates can take some comfort that they can focus on delivering care and not dealing with overly burdensome regulations and investigations. The major changes include:
Telehealth. Changes include allowing physicians and other healthcare providers to offer telehealth services across State lines, so State licensing issues should not be a concern. Additionally, Providers are essentially free to choose almost any app to interact with their patients, even if it does not fully comply with the HIPAA rules. The HHS allows the provider to use their business judgment, but of course, such communications should NOT be public facing – which means DO NOT allow the public to watch or participate in the visit!
Disclosures of Protected Health Information (PHI). A good faith disclosure of such information will not be prosecuted. Examples include allowing a provider or business associate to share PHI for such purposes as controlling the spread of COVID-19, providing COVID-19 care, and even notifying the media, even if the patient has not, or will not grant his or her permission.
Business Associate Agreement (BAA). As most healthcare providers know, a BAA agreement between a provider and an entity that may have access to PHI is required by law. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the lack of a BAA is not an automatic violation.
There are 116 specific COVID-19 grants available from the United States Government, spanning the addiction treatment industry to assisted living, hospitals and providers. There’s money for workplace modernization and for telehealth funding. But how does one keep it all straight and avoid missing out? Join Florida Healthcare Law Firm Attorney Steven Boyne for this informative webinar designed to share an overview and strategy for determining how best your healthcare business can be supported during this unprecedented public health emergency.
Florida Healthcare Law Firm Attorney Chase Howard will cover the top 10 questions healthcare providers and businesses are asking related to COVID-19. He will provider solutions and strategies to implement to help you through this pandemic and be better prepared for the new normal of the future. Submit your questions in advance!
Florida Healthcare Law Firm is offering advisement by way of webinars to dentists and dental professionals during the Covid-19 pandemic. The firm, which offers legal assistance to medical professionals and businesses, is working in the dental law field and assisting professionals who are currently not working due to the coronavirus so that they can continue to provide assistance to their patients. With education top of mind for the firm, the telehealth and teledentistry campaign is to inform dental professionals on how to directly stay in contact with patients and offer services via audiovisual telecommunications.
“The coronavirus has hit our country hard and most small businesses. Dentistry is at the top of the list and even though dental law is one of our top fields, we wanted to make sure that we adapted to the times and offered a reliable service to our clients and those in the field impacted by this pandemic. Technology allows doctors to connect with patients from anywhere in the world and knowing that you can reach a medical professional who you’ve trusted for years is important, especially right now.” Florida Healthcare Law Firm Representative. “Although dental services have been deemed “non-essential business,” we know how important dental health is. Patients will still have dental questions or concerns during the office shut-downs.”
Because telemedicine is not a service usually offered by dentist offices, many doctors and business owners are finding it difficult to adjust and offer remote service. The law firm has stepped in and is offering free information webinars and other forms of digital content which can provide clarity and guidance for these small businesses so that they can stay open and provide care for their patients. With a limitation elective services, as well as many in the public not wanting to leave their homes right now, telehealth provides a bridge where patients can still get reliable care and advisement from someone they trust.
COVID is proving to be so burdensome on employers that we are seeing lay-offs and furloughs all over the country. As the virus curve bends back in a positive direction and physician and patient concerns for safety wane, patients will stream back to office. But what happens to the laid off (or furloughed) employees and contractors with non-competes? Will they come back or will they have moved on, possibly in a way that violates their noncompetes? And will a court think a noncompete has been violated when an employee or contractor was let go and there is no specific provision in their written contract that allows the employer to immediately let someone go without notice due to this type of situation? How will the COVID based lay-offs and furlough affect noncompetes? The short answer is we don’t yet know, but widespread lay-offs and furloughs may result in a flood of cases being filed because (1) many have been let go, (2) there likely isn’t a provision in their contract with the employer that specifically authorizes that sort of termination, and (3) a contract’s “breach” (e.g. no contract based allowance for the prompt termination) is traditionally a defense to an action to enforce a noncompete.
The COVID Issue
Though there is an exception for unusual specialties or where there is essentially a community need, noncompetition covenants are generally enforceable in Florida with respect to doctors and other healthcare professionals. Many people think doctors in particular can’t be restricted from practicing medicine under any circumstances. That is just not true.
Getting to the bone of the issue, noncompetes are enforceable in Florida if:
Join Florida Healthcare Law Firm Attorney Chase Howard on our free webinar titled “How can you transform your business to be prepared for future situations like COVID-19?”
Faced with the reality of remote operation, we’ll talk about how your business prepare to thrive in a similar scenario in the future.
What to do with remote staff when it comes to contracts, operations and patient privacy.
How do Federal regulations impact telework.
Could expanded telehealth laws ease the transition to remote care in a future crisis.
Presenter:Chase Howard, Esq. is an Attorney at the Florida Healthcare Law Firm and has focused his legal practice on health law, medical malpractice defense, business law, and contracts. He deploys crucial skills gained through hands-on business experience in the medical tech world to service clientele such as medical spas, medical practices, medical technology businesses, healthcare business entities, physicians, chiropractors, and dentists. Chase’s experience working in University of Miami Health System’s Risk Management Department provided him with a strong understanding of legal compliance in the healthcare world as well as experience in liability assessment, prevention and defense. With his multi-specialty background, Chase’s practice focuses on all aspects of transactional Health Law, MedSpa Start-up and consulting, general business law, and MedTech.
As Commercial Real Estate continues to grow, the medical office space is evolving to cater to new trends which affect the practice of medicine as well as the real estate industry as a whole. The healthcare sector is beginning to lean toward efficient spaces, and creating greater availability in spaces.
With equipment, staff and use of extremely sophisticated technology, medical buildings utilize huge amounts of energy. With the expansiveness of the size of most properties, intense lighting needs, air and temperature control, and high-powered machinery it has been difficult to operate in a low efficiency environment.
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.
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.
In a decision expected to cause waves through the rapidly-expanding regenerative medicine industry, a U.S. District Court Judge ruled on June 3rd that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is entitled to an injunction in a lawsuit filed against U.S. Stem Cell Clinic, LLC (US Stem Cell) based in Sunrise, Florida. In her decision, U.S. District Court Judge Ursula Ungaro agreed that the FDA has the authority to regulate the popular stem cell procedure known as stromal vascular fraction (SVF) – administering processed stem cells derived from adipose tissue (i.e. fat tissue) – and that US Stem Cell is not exempt from regulation.
To recap, in May 2018, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed complaints against US Stem Cell and a California stem cell clinic seeking permanent injunctions to prevent the marketing and administration of the SVF procedures without FDA approval. Prior to the filing of these actions, both companies received warning letters from the FDA. The letters also addressed the results of inspections and the need to resolve significant deviations from manufacturing practice requirements.
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.