Small Business Brief

Medical & Services

Staying Above Board: Legal Tips for Medical Practices

The average American finds themselves in the doctor’s office 4 times per year. Multiply that figure by the domestic population (327 million people), and it’s clear that private medical practices can make a good living in today’s market.

While every patient that you see represents a chance to grow your medical business, each patient also represents a significant liability to your livelihood. All it takes is one slip up when it comes to attracting, treating or managing your patient’s records after a visit to end up in court and potentially be liable for millions of dollars worth of damages.

To help you stay out of dodge when it comes to legal issues, keep these 8 tips in mind as you manage your day to day operations.

1. Don’t Embellish in Advertisements

Physicians take out advertisements locally sharing their qualifications, the procedures that they’ve performed and the success of their patients. If you do this, it’s very important that you’re 100% honest in your presentation of information. Furthermore, if you disclose the success rates of certain procedures, you need to let prospective patients know that “results may vary”.

All it takes is one patient’s expectations to get violated for you to end up in court so err on the side of caution when making claims.

2. Marketing Regulations Vary From State to State

In your home state, it might be legal to talk about a procedure in your marketing collateral without sharing its price. In another state, doing that could be illegal.

Given that most private medical practices advertise locally, thinking about other state’s regulations probably hasn’t crossed your mind. If you advertise on the internet though, it should.

Many ads that are taken out on Facebook or Google end up in front of people that live outside of your state. If out of state citizens see an ad that isn’t in compliance with their state’s laws, you could be held accountable for damages. To be safe, make sure that you properly localize your ad’s target market to your vicinity.

3. Don’t Advertise Yourself As a Specialist Unless You’re Certified

If you operate your medical practice out of an area that caters to college students, you might see a lot of patients for stress and anxiety-related conditions. Just because you treat a lot of those cases does not make you a stress and anxiety specialist.

In some states, citing yourself as a specialist without having a recognized authority certify you could be considered misleading. To be safe, instead of promoting yourself as a specialist, state that you successfully assist X amount of patients with a certain disorder every year.

4. Exercise Caution When Sharing Patient Stories

HIPPA is a US law that requires medical professionals to protect the identities of their patients. If you violate HIPPA stipulations, you could get fined and may even lose your medical license.

Given those high stakes, it’s important to know that if you share a patient’s story in an advertisement or even verbally with another patient, you could get into a lot of trouble. This is true even if you change the patient’s name.

The best way to share a success story without fear of getting penalized is to have that patient sign a non-compensation release form that enables you to discuss particulars surrounding your experience with them.

5. Invest in Staff Training

You may be well versed on everything that you need to do to keep your medical practice from running into a lawsuit. Your staff, on the other hand, probably isn’t. After all, if your practice were to get sued for a violation, who stands to lose more, you or them?

Ensure that your team is prepared to protect your practice from legal liability by making them take training related to HIPPA requirements on an annual basis. While training can present a monetary and time investment for you, believe us when we say that it’s worth the expense.

6. Talk to an HR Expert

One of the most common reasons why any business owner gets sued is due to disputes with employees. Things like asking the wrong interview questions, making an inappropriate request or not providing proper documentation surrounding employee pay can all land you in trouble.

A highly-trained HR expert can consult with you so you can navigate your obligations as an employer in a way that avoids trouble. If possible, take things a step further and keep HR personnel on staff.

7. Buy a Good Malpractice Insurance Policy

No matter how much effort you put into providing your patients with the best possible care, a single hiccup could send a litigious person to a cerebral palsy lawyer and you could start spending your next year in and out of court. Malpractice claims happen to the best of physicians so if you run up against one, do your best to not get discouraged.

Plan for the possibility of a malpractice suit by arming yourself with a quality insurance policy.

8. Get Good Legal Counsel

No amount of blog posts on legal tips for medical practices can replace the advice of a good attorney. Find quality legal council in your area, consult with them and proceed in running your practice with confidence!

A Little Bit of Legal Caution Can Go a Long Way for Medical Practices

Medical practices run risks in everything that they do. The best way to mitigate those risks so you can spend less time in court and more time helping people is to know the basics of what your legal obligations are to your patients and to the local government.

A little bit of caution on the legal front can go a long way for your business so take our tips to heart and use them to empower your office to do its best work!

For additional business advice, take a moment to browse more of the informative write-ups that we have up on our blog!