Physician Compliance: Keep an Eye on All Communications

Physician Compliance Concerns

Every word written or spoken in connection with a physician's practice presents the potential for risk. Based on my experiences, the following are two areas of physician compliance concerns when it comes to practice communications.

Physician Compliance Issue: Text messages

Smartphones, while convenient, have caused countless compliance issues. Communications as seemingly private and innocuous as a text message present a significant risk, as law enforcement can easily obtain information about texts that a service provider might tell a patient is unavailable.

Physician Compliance Issue: Exam recordings

Many states have one-party consent laws for recording communications, and in such states, only the party taping the conversation needs to know that it is being recorded. In these states, a patient might record a physician during an appointment or procedure without obtaining the physician’s permission. Such recordings can be used in malpractice cases, such as a case I know of where a physician made disparaging comments during a colonoscopy, before which a patient had started recording the procedure on his phone. Consider posting specific policies concerning such recordings, recommending language that prohibits the use of recording devices unless specifically permitted by the provider.

Reducing Risk

This is another reminder of the seven elements to an effective compliance program as identified by the HHS Office of Inspector General:

  • Implementing written policies, procedures, and standards
  • Designating a compliance officer and committee
  • Conducting effective training and education
  • Developing effective communication
  • Enforcing standards
  • Conducting internal audits
  • Responding promptly to detected offenses and developing corrective action

How many of these have you implemented in order to reduce your physician compliance risk? One important piece of a program is a compliance hotline to allow employees an opportunity to report compliance issues. Employees should be able to do so anonymously, but also be able to provide his or her name with confidence in the organization’s confidentiality. Employees must be assured that they will not be retaliated against for reporting issues in the organization.

Additional Resources for Healthcare Compliance

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