Political conflict creates medical practice risk

June 9, 2020

As America returns to work after a week of national political trauma, physicians need to protect their assets, including their practices, from significant additional risks.

As America returns to work after a week of national political trauma, physicians need to protect their assets, including their practices, from significant additional risks. 

As a physician, your asset protection and risk management planning logically center on professional risk and medical malpractice in particular, but it certainly should not end there. A medical practice owner has all the unique risks related to patient care and health care law compliance and the complex legal liability of every other business in America. As we’ve seen on the news this week, and as many of you experienced first-hand, those risks can change rapidly and unpredictably. 

While the national protests related to the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers have been increasingly peaceful with every passing day and the looting and damage has tapered off, we are not out of the woods yet. There is a long and heated election season ahead of us and the potential for additional political unrest is significant, especially when combined with the pressures of the covid-19 coronavirus and significant economic pressure including a 16% unemployment rate, if not a recession, as we’ve previously discussed. These are some areas that require immediate caution. 

Suicide by Social Media

In these highly charged times, we are continually reminded that nothing is private and your own bad acts and deeds can spread around the country in hours thanks to social media. You have likely seen several people commit professional suicide this week alone including a Maryland cyclist who stopped his ride to assault some children over their protest flyers, the naval college official who accidentally live streamed a racist tirade with his wife on Facebook and just yesterday morning, the alleged wife of an attorney melting down and getting slapped in a Phoenix gas station. 

Consider your own conduct and address your expectations and the risks with your family members, staff, children and partners proactively. The effects of such conduct can destroy a business or a professional reputation, even if not by an owner, and many cases will require that the offending party will need to be severed from the practice. Measures required may range from discipline and suspension to termination of employment or even the exit of a partner from a practice due to their disqualifying conduct, assuming you’ve legally prepared for it. You may also need legal representation and crisis PR management if the act involves the business. Imagine the headline, “Doctor filmed on racist tirade, member of high-profile Surgical Practice”. 

 

Physical Security Risks 

While there was undoubtedly looting, destruction of property and violence in communities across the country, the majority have been peaceful and that has largely tapered off. That said, tensions and fear remain very high and false stories are being amplified by disinformation spreading through social media including fanciful tales of “Antifa and BLM hordes” being bussed  into the suburbs. 

This fear creates real risk and innocent people have already been assaulted by triggered individuals that have armed themselves and who are acting out without legal cause. As a practice owner and law abiding American you certainly do have a legal right defend yourself but my concern is that a large number of people are now afraid and armed, many lacking the training to do so legally and effectively. 

Please consider the following civil unrest risk management and leadership checklist as part of your business planning:

  • Does your practice have a published (meaning it is posted and that third parties are actually made aware of it) and enforced policy that limits how and if firearms and other weapons are permitted in your place of business by non-employee guests like patients and vendors? 

  • Does your practice have a published and enforced internal policy about the possession of firearms and other weapons by staff and physicians in your place of business? 

  • Does your practice have or need additional commercial liability insurance including active shooter insurance to protect itself, staff and patients from acts of violence? 

  • Does your practice need additional physical security measures, either active (like guards) or passive (like cameras, locks, buzzers and barriers) to protect staff and patients? Remember that just weeks before the current political crisis, medical practices, providers and hospital facilities were being targeted by coronavirus “truthers’, some of which were violent. 

Again, risks evolve based on factors both inside and outside your practice, we will follow this situation closely and keep you informed. 

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.