Investing in a healthcare related business involves significant time and money. Building a brand takes even more and is extremely important in today’s society. Having the ability to build a recognizable brand, scale, and potentially sell, is the goal of many healthcare business entrepreneurs. With the ever-booming impact of social media, online advertising, and online reviews, healthcare businesses seek to engage at a higher degree than ever before to attract new patients, retain current patients, and establish themselves as experts in their respective fields.
Building a brand is part of it, while protecting that brand is far more important. A well-recognized word or logo can be worth everything to your business. Obtaining ownership and protection over a name or mark is a fairly simply task with significant rewards. Trademarks are the names, slogans, tag lines, and/or logos that identify and represent your business, its services, and mission to the public, and are the foundation for the business’s overall branding and marketing. Trademarks can also be used to protect your business in a specific area or a specific area of expertise. If you do not protect your brand, a competitor could use it (or something similar, which could confuse the public and your patients and therefore potentially draw business away from your brand.
In the beginning of June, 2020, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) revised its Evaluation of Corporate Compliance Programs Guidance Document. The Document is designed to assist prosecutors in making informed decisions as to whether, and to what extent, the company’s compliance program is effectivefor purposes of determining, when a compliance violation has occurred, the appropriate form of any resolution or prosecution and monetary penalty. It also guides a prosecutor as to the company’s compliance obligations contained in any criminal resolution. The Document has been revised on three occasions since 2017, telegraphing the DOJ’s intent to prosecute those businesses without compliance plans, or without effective compliance plans, more harshly than those taking steps to identify and remedy risks.
A healthcare business’ failure to have in place a compliance program designed to detect and respond to potential fraud and security risks places it at a serious risk of civil and criminal liability. When a compliance issue is investigated, charged and resolved, DOJ prosecutors are instructed to consider whether the business has invested in and improved its corporate compliance program and internal controls systems. They must also determine whether those improvements have been tested to demonstrate that they would prevent or detect similar misconduct in the future. According to the DOJ, there are three fundamental questions that a prosecutor should ask when determining whether a business’ compliance plan is sound:
There are numerous 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.
When COVID-19 passes and the world begins to return to normal, you can be guaranteed that many of your old “friends” will come to visit you. To minimize future liability, pain and time, you should be preparing today for tomorrow’s visitors:
The Lawyers. Lawyers come in many flavors, and can bring good or bad news. Depending on your initial reaction to the pandemic, and your subsequent actions as the panic started to die down you may see three types of lawyers: (1) Those that represent past or present employees who have lost their job or contracted COVID-19; (2) Those that represent patients who claim malpractice based on the care that you did or did not deliver, and also those patients who assert that they contracted COVID-19 at your office; and finally (3) Those that represent creditors or debtors of your practice. The actions you should take today are many and varied and beyond the scope of this overview, however, you should be asking the following questions of yourself: (i) did you file a claim for business interruption despite the fact that your insurance broker said you were wasting your time? (ii) does your malpractice carrier cover you for liability outside of the normal scope of providing care? (iii) are your documenting your actions throughout the pandemic to demonstrate that you were acting reasonably at a time when you did not have all the facts? (iv) did you look at your business insurance policies for coverage for employee claims, or workers comp claims, or OSHA claims? (v) did you research what other similarly situated companies are doing, as you will most likely be held to the same standards? (vi) did you follow guidance from State and Federal entities? and (vii) did you provide notice during the pandemic to debtors or other parties who have breached their obligations?
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.
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.