As 2021 draws to a close we look at some of the business asset protection planning issues every physician practice owner and leader should make a 2022 first quarter priority.
Asset protection for doctors goes far beyond protecting personal assets from malpractice claims and must include both passive risk management and active defensive measures. Here’s a short that includes both traditional business and medical practice risks and some of the newer, growing risks specific to current events like social and economic pressures, covid and the politicization of healthcare.
- Manage employment law risks. We’ve covered many aspects of this issue before, with discussions ranging from why you need employment manuals and specialty insurance to how to throw a safe office holiday party. Employment law conflicts are the leading cause of risk for all businesses, including medical practices, and current social, economic and political pressures, along with social media, have magnified these risks. Covid is not over, and many practices will need to continue to manage to ongoing issues of vaccine mandates, whether self-imposed or otherwise, mask usage by staff and patients, quarantine rules and other related issues. This means having known and uniformly enforced policies in place on all these issues and professional guidance from employment law experts.
- Insure against all predictable business risks, not just malpractice.After leadership and compliance, insurance is your first and most predictable line of defense. We’ve previously covered the idea that insurance is a system of layers that protect you against specific risks, like employment law exposures, data breaches, RAC audits and managerial liability and that no single policy can adequately protect you from. Make sure you understand the details of your coverage, and that your coverage is to the right (high) limits, not just low limit “riders” added to your med-mal policy. If you own the property in which your practice operates, it’s time to re-visit your coverage. It should be adjusted to reflect current restoration and materials costs and timeframes, which are likely significantly greater than when you bought the policy.
- Get your business paperwork in order. This is a very common issue that lawyers have to deal with and that many clients don’t know is a problem until there is a crisis and the paperwork that is required is non-existent, outdated, incomplete or simply missing. You need to have this paperwork completed, safely stored and easily accessible to yourself and to your successors, in the event you are not available. A few important basics include:
- Custom drafted, state specific employment manuals
- Buy-Sell and Cross Purchase agreements
- Corporate documents for the business itself
- Insurance Policies
- Leases and other third-party business contracts
- Succession and continuation plans
- Crisis management plans
- Employment agreements
- Titles to business owned property, equipment and vehicles
- All required licensing and compliance paperwork
- Secure your practice against active physical threats. We’ve covered the dangerous politicization of health care for years and the fact that medical professionals and healthcare facilities have increasingly been targets for acts of violence. Unfortunately, the country and the practice of medicine are growing increasingly violent, and your leadership team has a legal duty to protect staff and patients from foreseeable risks. This includes everything from basic physical security measures like locks, security and lighting to details like having a gun policy at your practice for both employees and patients and active shooter training and insurance.
- Defend your medical business against digital threats. Medical practices of all sizes are prime targets for phishing attacks, ransomware and other active criminal schemes. Add in HIPAA liability and an increasingly remote work force and the scope of the risk starts to emerge.
- Have a strictly enforced IT security protocols in place that includes training, regular back-ups, updates and professional support
- Be insured for seven figures against various forms of data breaches with a seven figure, stand-alone data breach/cyber liability policy
- Manage remote workforce risks proactively with training and monitoring including equipment and document storage policies
- Have an IT crisis management plan that includes business continuity plans in the event your system is down for some period of time
As always, this is simply a starting point that covers a small number of the predictable current risks that apply to the widest possible scope of practices. Get professional, personalized help as our monitoring and discussion of these issues continues.