business legal issues

11 Common Medical Business Legal Issues that Occur

Managers of medical and aesthetic practices face many concerns. Since they’re managing a business, they must be concerned about marketing their practice to attract customers. Furthermore, because these practices provide personal services, managers must also protect their practices against possible business legal issues. Here are some legal concerns that different types of medical businesses might face.

1. Dental Offices

Just as with all healthcare practices, dentists must ensure their patients clearly understand and agree to all procedures that are performed. When a dentist or a dental staff member performs any procedure, they must explain it to the client in detail. To ensure ‘informed consent,’ the dental staff must then ask the patient to verbalize their understanding of any services performed and to sign a form attesting to their knowledge of the procedure’s potential risks.

Dental practice managers may face business legal issues related to selling and purchasing a dental practice. For example, the contracts for the sale should cover the details of each practice’s liability if a patient comes to the new dental office with a problem that’s related to procedures done at the previous office. These ‘retreatment’ procedures can potentially be costly. If both parties’ liabilities are not carefully spelled out, such a case could become a potential treatment nightmare.

Obtaining an informed consent document protects the practice if the patient returns in the future and claims the dentist performed a procedure to which they disagreed. Dental offices may potentially have legal disagreements with vendors or with consulting dentists. Having a lawyer who is familiar with the issues of dental practices is indispensable.

2. Orthopedic Doctors

Orthopedic doctors deal with bones and joints, so their practice can limit mobility if an orthopedic treatment or surgery goes wrong. Many of the legal issues related to orthopedic procedures are related to devices surgically implanted into joints or bones. Even if the doctor operates perfectly, a patient can react adversely to an implanted device. An adverse reaction to the implanted device can result in severe medical issues.

Orthopedic doctors frequently do hip and knee replacement surgeries. Some of the most common business legal issues related to an orthopedic practice involve these joint replacement surgeries. If there are any irregularities during joint surgery, it can result in loss of mobility, infection, or severe pain. Any of these issues can result in a lawsuit.

Other surgical issues concern the nerves that are near bones. Bones move in conjunction with muscles, and nerves stimulate the movement of the muscles surrounding bones. Nerves are extremely thin, so it is difficult to avoid impacting them during surgery. Nicking or cutting a nerve can cause problems that range from painful tingling to loss of movement.

3. Cosmetic Dermatologists

Dermatology practices deal with skin problems. Cosmetic dermatologists concentrate on procedures intended to improve the appearance of the skin. Everything they do will be visible. Unfortunately, this means even the smallest errors can result in an unattractive face, and this can result in business legal issues.

As with any other surgery, cosmetic dermatology surgery places a patient at risk for infection. Surgeons scrub their hands and arms scrupulously before any surgery and wear gloves to ensure they won’t transmit germs. However, because germs are invisible, it’s impossible to know whether germs are still present during surgery. Infections of the skin can not only alter a patient’s appearance but can cause severe medical complications.

Cosmetic dermatologists performing surgery risk similar potential problems with the nerves as do orthopedic doctors. If a cosmetic dermatologist impacts a nerve during facial surgery, it can result in a ‘frozen’ facial expression. People are very protective of their appearance, and when they seek cosmetic dermatologists, they expect an improvement. They often take their doctors to court if the result doesn’t meet their expectations.

4. Health Care Services

One of the typical business legal issues involved in health care services is HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) regulations and patient privacy. Not only must your healthcare practice have a written HIPAA policy, but a copy of the policy must also be presented to each patient. HIPAA violations occur when a staff member breaches a patient’s confidentiality. These breaches affect your business’s reputation, but they can also result in hefty fines.

When patients receive services from health care practitioners, the office bills their insurance company. Unfortunately, there are unethical offices that attempt to defraud insurance companies. These companies will bill for procedures they didn’t do – or falsely increase the number or nature of client visits. Laws that seek to prevent such unethical practices are called ‘false claim’ laws.

Employment laws and professional disciplinary charges are other areas affecting many types of healthcare offices. Each employee in your office should have a detailed employment contract to protect you and the employees. As for employee disciplinary matters, if your office becomes involved in a case where an employee’s actions become the subject of a court case, a corporate attorney experienced in legal challenges affecting your healthcare field is crucial.

5. Other Employee Legal Issues

OSHA Violations involve employee safety and require companies to implement practices to protect employees from injuries on the job. Healthcare businesses also need to take precautions against infectious diseases. An employee who is injured may claim the business didn’t take sufficient safeguards to prevent their injury. In such a case, the employee can bring legal charges against the employer.

All businesses use several chemicals to some extent during their normal business activities. Some of those chemicals can be hazardous under certain conditions. Federal regulations require firms to provide a manual that contains an MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) for each chemical that the business uses. Healthcare companies are no exception, and all chemicals and substances used in the practice’s office and their medical procedures must be documented in that manual.

If you or your medical practice are taken to court, you must prepare an assertive defense. Accurate documentation on every patient’s chart is essential because your documentation can be used as evidence in a legal action. Managers need to educate their staff on how to document patient procedures correctly. Hiring chart auditors who can review the patient charts for compliance is a very wise preventative measure.

6. Nonsurgical Cosmetic Treatment

Just as cosmetic surgery is intended to improve a patient’s looks, an increasing number of nonsurgical treatments for the same purpose are now becoming popular. These procedures target wrinkles, creases, and other facial irregularities. Having access to a malpractice attorney is a sensible precaution for your office to protect you in the event of any business legal issues.

Botox injections are very commonly done to eliminate facial wrinkles. Botox is intended to paralyze the muscles that cause wrinkling. However, there is a risk that Botox can spread to other parts of the body and cause muscle weakness or a loss of muscle movement. If this occurs, it can result in a lawsuit.

Treatments called dermal fillers use injected solutions to erase wrinkles and pose some of the same risks as Botox. Dermal fillers often contain hyaluronic acid: a type of body fluid that joins body cells together. Although dermal fillers can produce dramatic improvements, they have a risk of complications or prolonged discomfort.

7. Estheticians

The use of estheticians has been increasing during the past few decades. These practitioners use procedures such as dermabrasion (exfoliation) and medical lasers to correct skin irregularities. Since these procedures will also affect your facial expression, client dissatisfaction with these practices can lead to business legal issues.

There is an increasing number of plastic surgeons who will employ an esthetician to provide answers and education about skincare questions for their clients. Dermatologists have also been hiring estheticians. These advisory positions can put estheticians at risk for lawsuits because of their association with the doctors.

8. Medical Weight Loss Clinics

Medical weight loss clinics offer two main approaches to physician-supervised weight loss. Some clinics provide weight loss medications that require supervision by a doctor. Other clinics specialize in various types of weight loss surgery. Both types of medical weight loss clinics can face business legal issues from their clients.

Clients seeking the services of weight loss clinics are often obese and therefore have mobility limitations. When these patients attempt to mobilize after surgery, they can often fall or injure themselves. If the staff members at the clinic don’t provide instructions and assistance to the clients regarding safe methods of mobilization, they may be considered negligent. If clients don’t receive sufficient nutritional guidance and support after weight loss intervention, they may not achieve their desired results.

Because of the increased popularity of using a medical weight loss clinic, staffing needs have also increased. Staff roles for these clinics have yet to be well-defined. Therefore, there has been an increase in the need for legal regulations and more explicit guidelines for the assignments of staff members to specific procedures legally.

9. Optometrist

Managing an optometry practice can include many business legal issues. Many recent legal challenges have occurred because of ‘failure to refer.’ These rulings cover occurrences when a patient reports symptoms related to their vision, and the doctor doesn’t act quickly enough to treat the problem or refer the client to a specialist that will help them. If the patient develops a loss of vision because of the delay, this ruling can be used to take the optometrist to court.

Optometrists can also be sued for ‘failure to diagnose.’ These rulings frequently occur when a client has glaucoma. Glaucoma can be challenging to diagnose because it has few or no symptoms. Even with an eye exam, unless eye drops sufficiently dilate the pupil of the eye, the condition of glaucoma is difficult to detect. If it’s not detected and the patient subsequently loses their vision, they can sue the optometrist.

Regarding negligence suits, all healthcare workers should know how the law defines negligence. Negligence has four components: duty of care, breach of duty, injury, and causation. All your staff members must understand these four components and do their best to meet their duty of care.

10. IV Therapist

Intravenous therapy has been used for many years to deliver medications and chemotherapy. In recent decades, IV therapy has been used for special wellness infusions, targeted vitamin infusions, and for hangover relief. Because these therapies are administered directly into the veins, they present a risk for complications. Those complications can result in legal issues.

These solutions mix sterile saline with vitamins, amino acids, and energy enhancers. Users of these therapies have reported a quick recovery from a hangover – or a quick increase in energy and wellness. Clinics that provide these services are now protecting themselves with written disclaimers that let their clients know the FDA doesn’t yet approve these treatments.

IV therapy clinics must educate their staff about necessary precautions to prevent infection. In addition to the risk of infections at the IV site, an infection could spread through the body and cause serious complications. If the client has an infection transmitted via the blood, an accidental needle stick could put one of your staff at risk for that infection. For these and other reasons, your practice needs an attorney familiar with your office’s services.

11. Psychiatrists

Psychiatric practices provide help to people with mental health problems. Although clients who use these practices have mental and emotional issues, unless those issues are addressed, they can eventually affect the body. There may also be times a psychiatrist believes their client poses a risk to themselves or someone else. The psychiatrist must be able to discern when it is legally permissible to report this risk to the police.

A psychiatrist may be asked to evaluate a client to determine if they are competent to participate in their legal defense. They might also be asked to evaluate a family situation – most commonly, child custody. – After evaluation, they may be asked to provide their opinion of the best solution for the child. They may be asked to testify in court regarding these legal issues.

Business legal issues can become very complicated. Medical practice managers must protect their business, staff, and clients from legal consequences. Ask an attorney for clarification of any legal challenges you may encounter.