Patients' Rights to Access Records Under HIPAA

 

Today we are talking about a growing trend in HIPAA enforcement by the Department of Health and Human Services, and by extension, the Office of Civil Rights that enforces HIPAA and all of its regulations. 

Important Info

HHS has recently announced its 19th enforcement action on patients' right to access. For the past year or so, they have put a big emphasis on patients having the right to access their PHI or their designated record set. Therefore, you should be aware of some of the basic rules. This should serve as a refresher or reminder, and if you're currently unaware of these rules, you will need to pay close attention as well, and update your policies and procedures accordingly. If you don't already have written policies and procedures for HIPAA privacy and security rules, it is a requirement under HIPAA, so if you don't have that yet, reach out to us. We have a template at FunctionalLawyer.com, so get your procedures in place as soon as possible because that is a...

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Know Your Standard of Care

 

Today we are covering: what is "standard of care," why it's important to you as a medical professional, and more importantly, how you can stay within your standard of care and make sure that you're not subject to any unwarranted liability. 

When Does Duty Call? 

Amongst physicians or lay people, they usually talk about malpractice in terms of being any unskilled, bad, or negligent treatment that causes injuries to the patient. That can be an action that you take, or an omission that you do not take, in your care of a patient. So, how do we determine if your actions or omissions are bad, unskilled, or negligent? We come up with a “standard of care.” Before we get to that definition, we have to go backwards and ask, “To win a lawsuit, what does the plaintiff have to prove in order to win?” 

In most states, the plaintiff has to establish that the professional owed a “standard of care” or a “duty of care” to that...

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HIPAA: Can I Email Patients?

 

Today I am giving you a quick HIPAA update and tackling one of the most frequently asked questions that I get daily from my members. I've counseled most of them on this, and now it's time to share the information with you. 

The recent, current question that practitioners are always asking me is, "Can I email my patients?" In other words, does HIPAA allow you to email your patients? The answer from HHS is a qualified yes, but I would say it's a qualified no from me. Let's take a look at these differences.

Read the Fine Print

The United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has an article first published in 2008 (last refreshed in 2013) that says the Privacy Rule does allow you to email patients, even for health issues and treatment plans, which would traditionally be PHI (Protected Health Information). Also, according to HHS, unencrypted email is not prohibited and is allowed. However, the same article also references the reasonable safeguards you...

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The Practice of Medicine

 

Today, I want to help you decide how you're going to expand your practice or reevaluate how your practice is currently set up so that you can avoid committing crimes and going to jail. That may sound intense and scary, and while I do not mean to scare you, I do want you to know what your risks are. When you are sitting down to conduct your risk analysis, are you covering all your bases? Or, are you leaving areas open to potential illegalities?

You may have set up your practice based upon how others have done it, or you may have just done what you wanted in terms of setting up and expanding your practice. You have to be careful here. You need to know what the actual limitations and rules are so that you can work within them and even work within those areas that are not catching up to speed. When it comes to telemedicine specifically, the industry is far outpacing the regulators. In other words, they haven't made laws to catch up with the advancement of technology and the...

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Can a Health Coach Order Labs?

 

"What can health coaches do?" And, more specifically, "Can health coaches order lab tests and interpret them?"  These are some of the most frequent questions I get at Functional Lawyer, and today I'm going to give you my answer, some additional information, and what you can do about it if this is something you're planning to implement in your practice.

What Does a Health Coach do?

Before we jump into the details, we first need to define what health coaches actually do and what their job description is. Health coaches are part wellness-expert, part mentor-cheerleader, part accountability-buddy, and part psychological toolbox or life-hacks-giver who assist others to make better choices. Basically, health coaches support and act as behavior-change specialists, and they help bring people out of their ruts or encourage them to change certain habits. Health coaches can be helpful in that they respond in ways that are not judgmental or aggressively negative, especially...

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Is it Worth the Risk?

 

I went Live on Facebook last Friday to answer a few questions that providers continue to have.  I have had so many responses and follow-up questions to last Friday's Live session, and I thought it would be beneficial to post the Live video and reiterate the helpful content.   (Please note that the Live recording lags for just the first 20 seconds of the video.)

Recently, during my Functional Lawyer Membership Office Hours, I was talking to a provider who wanted to register her telemedicine practice in Florida-- because Florida allows for out-of-state practitioners to do so, as long as they have a license in good standing in another state. (If you need more information about this, you can go to www.functionallawyer.com/florida , and there is a step-by-step guide for you.) The provider I was helping had a good question, and one that often comes up: "What about insurance?"

Are you certain you're covered? 

The ins and outs of insurance are not always...

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What is the Scope of a Health Coach?

 

The number one question I have been getting recently is, “What is the scope of a health coach?”

A lot of doctors, chiropractors, NPs, etc. are frustrated by their licensure because they want to move freely around the country and practice medicine, but it is illegal to do so if you are not licensed in the state in which your patient is located.

It can be frustrating to see licensed practitioners who are labeling themselves as “health coaches” in order to give medical advice and treat patients, which is also illegal.  Equally frustrating are health coaches who are acting as doctors and prescribing treatment while actual licensed professionals' hands are tied in fear of losing their license by helping someone out-of-state. 

Be Careful!

The myth that is going around is that you should just call yourself a “health coach” or a “consultant” so that you can do whatever you want wherever you want. While it is...

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"Inconceivable!" (Why "S-Corp" does not mean what you think it means)

You may, like me, be a fan of the cult classic The Princess Bride. But, even if you are not, it's likely you have come across this oft-repeated line in the movie:

The joke is that each time this character makes the exclamation, the thing being discussed is actually very possible if not probable.

And it pays off later in the film with another character saying:

It's a funny part of the movie that takes some time to set up, but with a satisfying payoff.

"But, Scott, what does that have to do with S-Corps? Just get to the point already."

Many new (and experienced) business owners are very confused about S-Corps and what they are and are not.

It isn't really their fault; S-corp is really poorly named, and here is why:

An S-corporation is a tax status with the IRS, NOT a type of entity. LLCs and other entities can elect S-corp status as well.

So each time I ask someone what kind of entity they have, and they respond with "S-Corp," I have to clarify:...

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Don't Let Your Fear Stop You

 

Did you know there are good fears and bad fears? There are fears that hold you back and fears that keep you safe. And then there are also fears that can be mitigated and, a lot of times, erased if you just did a little digging and self-exploration.

 

I know a bit about all of these types of fears and have experienced them on many levels while being an attorney, founding Functional Lawyer, and starting a functional medicine practice with my wife. I  left a very secure job at a well-paying law firm in a big, fancy downtown high rise in order to found Functional Lawyer, and I'm aware of the fear that entrepreneurs encounter every day. It's a really scary world out there.

However, I have learned that there's good fear, and there's bad fear, and both can be relevant to you as functional medicine providers. Recently, in 2021, I spoke with a provider who had been leasing an office for two years. And because she was so afraid of putting herself out there due to legal risks...

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Trending - Telemedicine Barriers Coming Down: West Virginia

 

Great news!

We are kicking off today's blog with great news! West Virginia has now been added to states who have expanded telemedicine to their own citizens and lowered the barriers for telemedicine's out-of-state practitioners.

This is part of a larger growing trend of states who are lowering barriers to telemedicine, and the best part about West Virginia's law is that there are not a lot of restrictions.

West Virginia becomes the latest state to enact some form of telemedicine registration for out-of-state practitioners to practice telemedicine in their state. This means that where the patient is located is where the telemedicine is deemed to occur. (If you don't have a license or a special purpose or registration like West Virginia has just adopted, then you're practicing medicine there illegally, and you can get fined criminally and civilly.)

Get Ready, Out-of-State Providers!

In this growing trend, we have seen many states now offering what some call "Special Purpose"...

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