Lessons Learned from Dial-Up0

This article was first published in the Daily Journal on May 15, 2014.

iStock_000013044243MediumIn the largest cities across the U.S., locating an Internet connection has become as easy as finding a cup of coffee. In modern times, however, the ability to effectively communicate in business is inextricably connected to the rate by which one is able to transfer data. Like a bad cup of coffee, we may tolerate a slow connection when options are limited, but no one really enjoys it. Lessons from both support the notion that we not only prefer quality speed, but it also improves our performance at work.

If bit rates are the standard measurement for telecommunications, hospital beds present the equivalent in health care. … Read more →

Regulatory Compliance Has No Speed Traps0

This article was first published on Corporate Compliance Insights on February 26, 2014.

iStock_000000906033Medium“A truth that’s told with bad intent / Beats all the lies you can invent.”  — William Blake

Formed through legislation signed by President Gerald Ford in 1976, the Office of the Inspector General (“OIG”) is one federal agency that should never be underestimated by those in the health care industry. In its pursuit to protect the integrity of health care programs and the welfare of their beneficiaries, the OIG boasts the power to determine the fate of most health care providers through standards both objective (42 U.S.C. § 1320a-7(a) – Mandatory Exclusions) and subjective (42 U.S.C. § 1320a-7(b) – Permissive Exclusions). While those unfortunate enough to find themselves on the List of Excluded Individuals and Entities (LEIE) may at times disagree, the pellucidity with which the OIG enforces its statutory directive is in perfect alignment with the transparency through which the agency insists providers conduct their business. … Read more →

PBS’s ‘This Emotional Life’: Eye on the Elderly: Helping Seniors in the Hospital Setting

This article was previously published on the Huffington Post.

“All diseases run into one, old age.”
–Ralph Waldo Emerson

Finding oneself in the hospital can be trying at any age. But for the elderly such an experience comes with a host of separate issues, both mental and physical, that need to be addressed in conjunction with prompt and professional care for their ailment. As our nation’s baby boomers begin to retire and medical advances increase life span, the average patient age continues to rise, a trend that appears to have no end in sight. In our efforts to assist an aging friend, relative or loved one, it is important to keep in mind that patience and perspective rule the day.

In this fast-paced modern age, when a young or middle-aged person gets sidelined through illness or accident, his or her thoughts often refer to the quotidian: school or work responsibilities, upcoming social events and family obligations. While the elderly entertain these thoughts as well, in many instances their priorities and focus will differ considerably. What may seem trivial to a 25-year-old may be of great importance to a patient of 85, be it paying the phone bill, watering the plants or feeding the cat. As a result, one of the most helpful things we can do when visiting sick, elderly patients is to ask them what they feel needs to be done. Through the simple act of listening, the caregiver or friend offers the understanding that the patient is not alone, and the needs of their life outside the hospital are being met. This frees them to focus their attention on the illness at hand and offsets the feelings of loneliness and helplessness that come with any hospital stay. … Read more →

Proceed With Caution: Matters to Consider for Business Lawyers Transitioning into Health Care0

This article first appeared in the NY Business Law Journal in November 2012.

When venturing into areas of law outside their usual practice, attorneys should be mindful of state-specific standards to which they are held.  Rule 3-110 of the California Rules of Professional Conduct sets the standard on the west coast, just as Rule 1.1 of the New York Rules of Professional Conduct applies on the east.  Absent the requisite skill to accommodate a client’s needs, an attorney may still engage and adhere to the statutory definition of competence by “associating with or, where appropriate, professionally consulting another lawyer reasonably believed to be competent” or “by acquiring sufficient learning and skill before performance is required.”[1]  In 2003, a California Appellate Court explained:  “Attorneys are expected ‘to possess knowledge of those plain and elementary principles of law which are commonly known by well informed attorneys, and to discover those additional rules of law which, although not commonly known, may readily be found by standard research techniques.’”[2]

However, due to the sheer volume and complexity of information generated regularly in the wake of reform, modern health care law exists in a league of its own. … Read more →

Taxing Health Care Reform0

Benjamin Franklin said:  “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

For almost 60 years, April 15 has meant “Tax Day,” or the day when individuals must submit their income tax returns to the Federal Government. The Sixteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution establishes Congressional “power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.”

Three years since its passage, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has become inextricably connected to the laws of federal taxation. The following overview explains some key points of intersection: … Read more →

Redefining the Valuation Methods of Modern Day Hospital Care1

This article was first published in the New York State Bar Association’s Health Law Journal, Vol. 17, No. 3 (Summer/Fall 2012).

Due to the sensitive nature of the industry it services, the American hospital must rightfully operate under copious federal and state regulations, in addition to volumes of rules and ordinances established by separate, non-governmental entities. Though policing policies such as accreditation, certification and periodic review come from a variety of both public and private sources, the goal is generally consistent: develop uniform standards to ensure that hospitals in the U.S. operate at an acceptable safety level while delivering quality patient care.

The Many Paths to Accreditation

Though its primary function is without question the delivery of accurate and effective medical treatment, health care is also big business.[1] In an attempt to promote constant vigilance among America’s hospitals, any one institution may be subject to accreditation review at any time from private, non-governmental organizations such as the Joint Commission,[2] the Healthcare Facilities Accreditation Program (HFAP),[3] Accreditation Commission for Health Care (ACHC),[4] Community Health Accreditation Program (CHAP),[5] the Compliance Team, Inc.,[6] Healthcare Quality Association on Accreditation (HQAA),[7] or DNV Healthcare, Inc. (DNV),[8] among others.[9]

By and large, each private entity governs through its own set of rules.  For example, the Joint Commission surveys hospitals by following more than 276 standards and reviewing 1,612 elements of performance.  HFAP does largely the same thing pursuant to its 1,100 or more individual standards.  Focusing on home medical equipment as well as durable medical equipment, prosthetics, orthotics and supplies (“DMEPOS”), HQAA has developed a review process consistent with federal standards.[10] … Read more →

The War on Health Care0

This article first appeared in the Daily Journal on June 15, 2012.

Throughout history, America’s methods of providing health care have always had an understated yet powerful impact on the way she chooses to wage war.  And yet, this may be the first time that health care is itself under siege. Indeed, the specter of war has provided countless opportunities to test society’s mettle in battle, while forcing those in power to prioritize in terms of their country’s health care. As sides are drawn and campaigns evolve, the strategies of combat take shape in ways previously unforeseen. This is certainly true in contemporary America, though in our modern age of reform it is health care itself that has come under attack.

Medically speaking, advances in science, technology and the provision of health care have commandeered the new millennium, both in practice and politics. And yet, medicine’s inestimable progress since the Civil War is often largely taken for granted by both the decision makers and the recipients of a country that has come to expect state-of-the-art facilities and easy access to providers. A century and a half ago, the delivery of medicine was grossly misunderstood, frequently useless and often barbaric. “Civil War surgeons cleaned their instruments by periodically rinsing them with water, usually at the end of the day. . . . Typically, the operator wiped the blood and other material from his knife with a quick swipe across the front of his large apron, which was usually stained with blood and pus from prior sessions.”[1]

Such an abysmal depiction of health care in the middle of the nineteenth century serves to underscore the catastrophic losses endured by both North and South in the deadliest conflict on American soil, while highlighting the need for a potent, reliable and inclusive health care structure on which to rely.. Dr. Jonathan Letterman, Civil War medical director of the Army of the Potomac, offered a wise analogy describing the relationship between the science of medicine and our ability to deliver it:  “Without proper means, the Medical Department can no more take care of the wounded than the army can fight a battle without ammunition.”[2] … Read more →

Health Care Reform this Spring: The Good, the Bad and the Obscure1

This article first appeared in the Daily Journal on May 18, 2012.

iStock_000018849339XSmall-250x1651The lack of growth in health care spending over recent years stands in stark contrast to the onslaught of health care regulations released by the federal government this spring. Due to the volume of such changes, pouring through this new iteration of codified health care reform can seem as Sisyphean as achieving actual compliance. The vigor and enthusiasm with which the federal government continues to add dimension to the 2010 Affordable Care Act leads many to believe that health care reform is here to stay, regardless of the U.S. Supreme Court decision due in June. With this in mind, all health care professionals would do well to familiarize themselves with the new structure imposed upon our system by the effects of reform. Rather than fret about its future, health care counselors are better served by understanding the bare bones at the foundation of this new structure.

The Good

Earlier this month the federal government released final regulations easing hospital conditions of participation (CoPs) in an attempt to decrease the burdens faced by providers and suppliers participating in federal health care programs (Medicare and Medicaid (Medi-Cal for California) in particular). These modifications, set forth in 42 CFR Parts 482 and 485, seek to simplify and even eliminate certain CoPs consistent with President Barack Obama’s January 2011 Executive Order directing federal agencies to employ the least burdensome approach that minimizes costs, simplifies duplicative regulations, and yet is still mindful of the American public and the need to preserve its freedom of choice.

Hospitals must be in compliance with federal CoPs in order to receive Medicare and Medicaid payments, a determination usually made by one of three national accreditation programs, which include the Joint Commission, Healthcare Facilities Accreditation Program (HFAP) and, most recently, Det Norske Veritas Healthcare (DNV Healthcare). Through observations, interviews and document and record reviews that take place during accreditation surveys, hospitals must satisfy all appropriate standards to ensure that Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries receive treatment that is both safe and superior.

Recent regulations have further revised and clarified the requirements for hospital governance, confirming that multi-hospital systems can maintain a central governing body where appropriate, provided that it includes one or more members of the hospital medical staff. The federal government commented: “[T]here is an important and essential symbiotic relationship that should exist between a hospital’s governing body and its medical staff.” The new regulations also permit a hospital’s medical staff to expand its membership to include non-physician practitioners (such as physician assistants, pharmacists and advanced practice registered nurses), provided such inclusions are consistent with hospital bylaws and state law (including scope of practice laws), and further allow podiatrists to take new leadership roles at a hospital. It should be noted, however, that registered dieticians might not be included in this pool of non-physician practitioners. … Read more →