Asset protection lessons in 2021 headlines

Risks that threaten doctor’s financial solvency take many forms and require serious personal and professional risk management in multiple areas.

Risks that threaten doctor’s financial solvency take many forms and require serious personal and professional risk management in multiple areas. A look at recent physician specific headlines illustrates why our asset protection coverage is so broad in its scope and some specific issues to avoid.

If you are a regular reader of this column, you already know that I make significant effort to cover all the predictable and recuring personal and professional risks physicians face and go far beyond the ever-present elephant in the room of your professional malpractice liability. We assume this is an omnipresent risk and will be it examining in detail in the near future. Our discussions have included issues like the importance of leadership, compliance, insurance, and a wide scope of legal risks related to the business of running a medical practice, as distinct from the practice of medicine. This week we take a fist look at a series of recent headlines that could affect your wealth.

Social Media Strikes Again #SoMeDocs

Over the last few years we’ve seen a wide variety of physicians commit “social media suicide” by doing things that reflect poorly on personal character or their professional skills, both inside and outside the walls of their practice. You’ve doubtless seen examples like the surgeon attending a traffic court hearing in the O.R. with a patient on the table and perhaps more recently, the Michigan physicians that are under investigation after they posted pictures of themselves playing a "Price Is Right"-type game where they guess the weight of organs they just removed from patients, on Instagram.

Regardless of fact, context and any actual effect on patient safety, here’s the cold, hard bottom line; doing these things will be used as de-facto evidence of your negligence in the event of any adverse outcome and your reputational damage will be public, immediate and permanently recorded on the internet.

EEOC Tells Doctor to Praise the Lord and Pass the Plate, With $375,000

This recent story about a practice in a Dallas suburb illustrates details we have covered including the need for custom drafted employment manuals and high limit specialty insurance coverage including both EPLI (employment practices liability insurance) and D&O (directors’ and officers’ insurance) in place.

A U.S. District Court ordered a Texas physician to pay $375,000 to employees who were required to start their workdays with mandatory prayer meetings as the result of am EEOC lawsuit. The court ruled that actions of the employing physician and organizations violated Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects employees from being required to accept their employer’s religious practices and beliefs as a condition of their employment.

If your personal beliefs require you to interject this sensitive issue into the workplace, do so carefully, on a clearly voluntary basis that includes no retaliation or disparate treatment for those that don’t participate, including by other staff members. It’s your liability either way.

From Russia with… No Vaccine Love

Even as America makes record progress in getting large numbers of people vaccinated against COVID-19 the anti-vaxxer movement is having a significant effect or slowing or stopping that progress in certain communities using a combination of wild conspiracy theories about vaccines being used for “mind control and containing secret microchips”, bad science, anecdotes and outright disinformation from America’s foreign enemies. According to a recent Wall Street Journal report quoting U.S. government officials, Russian intelligence agencies have mounted a disinformation campaign to undermine confidence in Pfizer vaccine and other Western COVID19 vaccines, using social media to promote publications that question vaccine development and safety.

Take this concerted effort into account when educating your patients and your staff, as medical professionals (including physicians) have certainly not been immune to this condition. Consider providing guidance on what info should be provided on these topics by your team both directly to patients and publicly through any related social media as well any any legal exposures or physical security issues that this disinformation may present, including protecting both any vaccine supply and those administering it.

In our next installment we will address other recent real-world examples including legal protection for whistleblowers and risk for employers that retaliate against them, sexual harassment claims, how medical malpractice claims could get even more expensive, and personal injury liability with vehicles and aircraft, among others.

About the Author

Ike Devji, JD, has practiced law exclusively in the areas of asset protection, risk management and wealth preservation for the last 16 years. He helps protect a national client base with more than $5 billion in personal assets, including several thousand physicians. He is a contributing author to multiple books for physicians and a frequent medical conference speaker and CME presenter. Learn more at www.ProAssetProtection.com.