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As 2021 begins, it presents both familiar risks and new challenges never experienced in the lifetimes of most Americans. We start the year by reviewing key measures to help you to manage and survive both.
Happy New Year! It’s good to start another year with Physicians Practice readers and to see a light at the end of the tunnel for America after one of the most challenging years in U.S. history. The country owes a profound debt to the healthcare community for its heroic service and courage in the face of not only overwhelming numbers, an unknown virus, and supply shortages, but also unprecedented levels of anti-science and anti-medicine hostility and disinformation.
The beginning of a vaccination program (which is already facing resistance, physical threats, and disinformation from anti-vaxxers) puts this country, its citizens, and our economy on track to recovery and a return to a new normalcy. If we can get most of the country vaccinated by the end of this year, the chances of some semblance of physical, social, political, and economic stability and normalcy by 2022 are excellent. Here are some tips for practice owners and leaders to help make sure you make it until then.
The political violence that rocked the country last week potentially threatened every citizen and business in the area, including medical practices, and was not limited to Washington D.C. There were significant events of violence or threats at various state Capitols and protests across half a dozen or more states including Washington, Georgia, Michigan, and Oregon. The risk isn’t over and is considered high through and after the Presidential inauguration, as there are multiple reports of violent protests being planned both at the inauguration itself and at state Capitols around the United States.
I recently covered some basic election violence risk management issues for medical practices that you should review if you haven’t already seen it. Protecting your patients, staff and business continuity requires a specific plan and may range from dealing with simple curfews and road closures to more direct, physical threats, like active shooters.
If you’ve seen the news in the last 72 hours, you have likely seen footage from all over the country of people who live streamed, tweeted, or otherwise shared their political activities on social media being exposed, arrested, and terminated from their employment. Healthcare workers including physicians, nurses, and paramedics have not been immune to this and have been identified on social media engaging in activities ranging from unsafe pandemic behavior that exposes themselves and their patients to COVID19, to making false statements and reciting ‘Q-Anon’ conspiracy theories, encouraging violence and allegedly even being part of the attack on the capitol building itself, and filmed inside the building.
We’ve previously discussed the importance of formal buy-sell agreements that control what happens when a partner leaves a medical practice due to issues including disability, departure, and disqualification. Having this crisis management tool in place may become vital to the reputation and solvency of your practice. Similarly, termination of an employee for disqualifying conduct that threatens the reputation, safety, or operation of a medical practice has its own risks and needs to follow both the law and the internal process outlined in your office employment manual, a vital business asset protection tool we have covered in detail.
Whether you’re a power user #SoMeDoc or don’t know a Tweet from a TikTok, social media is faster, more necessary and more powerful and more potentially dangerous to your practice than ever before. Make sure you have (and actually review with all staff and partners, the rules apply to everyone) an up to date social media policy that, in conjunction with your employment manual, outlines your policies and the penalties for violating them. The risks you face range from personal and professional reputation damage to significant financial and legal loss. Given recent events, make it unquestionably clear that any content attributable to their employment at your practice including images of them in your uniforms, your logo, their ID badges, or that identify your practice should be treated with the highest level of caution. They should know that while they have a right to free speech, that right may have consequences that affect their employment.
Stay safe, we continue the discussion in our next installment.
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.