Has Healthcare Compliance Gone Too Far?

Thursday, August 21, 2014
By Lance O. Leider, J.D., The Health Law Firm

From large hospital systems to solo practitioners, there is no escaping healthcare compliance in the industry. The concept of compliance can spark different thoughts in different people. For example, some believe it is an unnecessary government intrusion, and others believe it's a way to improve the quality and costs of healthcare.

No matter your thoughts on healthcare compliance and government oversight, regulation of the healthcare industry will never be eliminated. In fact, we expect it to increase as more quality-based requirements are implemented.

We believe compliance and regulations are necessary, but we have to wonder if sometimes these laws go too far.


Cute Baby Pictures Can Cost You.

As an example of laws going too far, photos of cooing newborn babies used to cover the bulletin boards of doctors' offices. However, under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), these baby photos are considered protected health information, along the same lines as a medical chart or social security number. A report by The New York Times indicates many offices have removed these types of photos or moved them to private portions of the office. According to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), doctors' offices are not allowed to post these photos without a specific written authorization from the parent.

Rachel Seeger, a spokeswoman from the OCR HHS, confirmed that the photo displays were illegal. She wrote in an e-mail, "A patient's photograph that identifies him/her cannot be posted in public areas unless there is specific authorization from the patient or personal representative."

Ms. Seeger did say she was not aware of any medical office that has been fined over this issue. Yet, we would not be surprised to see a baby photo wall listed as a violation on a HIPAA audit report. Likewise, Ms. Seeger's statements should in no way be considered as a statement of her agency's policies on enforcement.

To read more on this topic, click here.


Healthcare Compliance.

Healthcare compliance is the ongoing process of meeting or exceeding the legal, ethical and professional standards applicable to a particular healthcare organization or provider. Healthcare compliance requires healthcare organizations and providers to develop effective processes, policies, and procedures to define appropriate conduct, train the organization's staff, and then monitor the adherence to the processes, polices and procedures.  

Healthcare compliance covers numerous areas including patient care, billing, reimbursement, managed care contracting, OSHA, and HIPAA privacy and security to new a few.

To read a basic overview of healthcare compliance for organizations and providers, click here.


Dealing with Compliance Overkill.

The primary purpose of healthcare compliance is to improve patient care. It is nearly impossible to overstate the complexity of healthcare compliance. Healthcare organizations and providers are not only required to comply with Medicare rules and regulations, but they are also required to comply with numerous other federal and state healthcare laws, rules and regulations.

When dealing with compliance issues, our recommendation is to use your common sense and best judgment. Fear usually leads to absurd situations. With all the fear and propaganda out there it is important to stick to your instincts and put patient care first.

Healthcare compliance is cumbersome, many may agree too cumbersome. However, it is here to stay.


Comments?

Do you thing healthcare compliance has gone too far? How do you try to keep up with healthcare compliance laws and regulations? Are you worried about compliance consequences? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.


Contact a Health Law Attorney Experienced in Defending HIPAA Complaints and Violations.

The attorneys of The Health Law Firm represent physicians, medical groups, nursing homes, home health agencies, pharmacies, hospitals and other health care providers and institutions in investigating and defending alleged HIPAA complaints and violations and in preparing Corrective Action Plans (CAPs).
 
For more information about HIPAA violations, electronic health records or corrective action plans (CAPs) please visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com or call (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001.


Sources:


Hartocollis, Anemona. "Baby Pictures at the Doctor's? Cute, Sure, but Illegal." The New York Times. (August 9, 2014). From: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/10/nyregion/baby-pictures-at-doctors-cute-sure-but-illegal.html?_r=0

Kirsch, M.D., Michael. "The Consequences of Zero Tolerance: Why HIPAA is Overkill." Kevin M.D. (January 1, 2014). From: http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2014/01/consequences-tolerance-hipaa-overkill.html


About the Author: Lance O. Leider is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.


Tag Words: Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), HIPAA Omnibus Rule, HIPAA compliance,  data security, protected health information (PHI), Patient privacy, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Office of Civil Rights (OCR), patient rights, HIPAA compliance audit, HIPAA compliance, privacy, defense attorney, defense lawyer, HIPAA attorney, HIPAA lawyer, compliance plans, health law firm, The Health Law Firm

"The Health Law Firm" is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. - The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2014 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.
8/21/2014

Like this blog? Add your public comments:

Items in bold indicate required information.