Denver healthcare lawyers Gerald Niederman and Ann McCullough set an ambitious goal for the health law session they will lead at the upcoming Medical Group Management Association conference: demystifying the complex security and privacy regulations imposed by the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
The two lawyers will explain how the regulations affect medical group practices and will clarify the law's final regulations, which go into effect April 14, 2003.
Niederman, a partner for 16 years with the Denver branch of law firm Faegre and Benson, says medical group managers attending the session from 11: 45 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 24, should leave not only with knowledge of how the law will affect their practices, but also knowing what they need to do to comply with those regulatory requirements. The law affects how doctors communicate confidential medical information with insurers, hospitals, fellow physicians and others, while taking into account new technologies.
He said the preparation phase involves training staff and developing policies and procedures, much of which can be obtained through trade associations and publicly accessible sources.
"The `what to do with it when it's there' phase will be an ongoing compliance obligation that will take a fair amount of activity," he says, adding that HIPAA is likely to create a national privacy standard of care.
Joining Niederman will be his colleague McCullough, also a partner at Faegre and Benson, who also will discuss HIPAA and telemedicine issues. McCullough says as physicians increasingly practice telemedicine, they should be aware of changes in licensing requirements.
"The laws are lagging behind the technology and could potentially inhibit some of these cost-effective telemedicine programs," she says.
"There are issues relating to licensure, liability, reimbursement, confidentiality and credentialing. The licensing laws still vary considerably, and many state legislatures are seeing telemedicine as the wave of the future and have addressed this through the lawmaking process," she says.
McCullough, who also holds a bachelor's degree in nursing and has been with the firm for seven years, says physicians and other group practice managers should understand the business and legal issues before embarking on a telemedicine program.
"We've had clients who relied on telemedicine programs in their business planning, only to be thwarted by some of these issues when they finally did consult with legal counsel," she says. "It's a lot cheaper to do that on the front end."