Tips for Protecting Your Medical Office
Dan Levenson April 05, 2018
A medical office has a number of moving parts that all need to be protected, and the pressure to keep up with them all can make anyone overwhelmed. Just one error can mean a loss of reputation or funds that you’re probably not ready to face this year (or the years to follow for that matter).
But there’s no reason to despair if you’re worried that your office may not be stacking up in terms of the total safety package. There are plenty of steps you can take, both big and small, to get a better handle on protection.
If you’re a dentist, doctor, physical therapist, or physician’s assistant who wants to tighten up the reins on their office, it’s time to consider what true protection really means.
From HIPAA to OSHA, the rules for medical offices continue to become more stringent—especially when it comes to potentially harmful medical situations.
For example, any employees exposed to blood-borne pathogens during the course of their shift are entitled to a Hepatitis B shot free of charge. While it’s unlikely that an employee will catch this dreaded disease, they may be able to sue you for any and all repercussions if they do happen to catch it. If the office is audited for safety practices, you may face fines if you’re found to be violating any of the rules.
Instead of adding drama to every scenario (because let’s face it, medical offices are bound to see their fair share of communicable diseases), medical offices can focus on introducing better policies that both protect patients and employees without sacrificing on efficiency. This may include hiring more staff members or designating one (very organized) person to stay on top of everything. It could also just mean becoming more aware of the biggest risks in the office before making a game plan on how to deal with them.
It’s clear that criminals are no longer solely targeting credit card numbers when it comes to data theft. Medical fraud continues to skyrocket and, by some estimates, eats up as much as 10% of all healthcare spending.
With this much money on the line, the federal government continues to introduce more chances to HIPAA and HITECH laws, and their standards become ever stricter when it comes to how offices safeguard their patient’s data.
Because technology changes so quickly, many of HIPAA and HITECH’s general rules have to do with taking “reasonable” precautions to protect data. While these types of phrases are ultimately deciphered by a judge in the case of legal battles, medical offices may want to look into measures that will keep them out of legal hot water in the first place.
For example, encryption is one way to make sensitive patient information unreadable—even if a thief does manage to crack your system. In other words, firewalls and perimeter protections may not nearly be enough to keep a motivated cyber thief at bay. The good news is that as encryption becomes more popular, it also becomes cheaper and easier to implement.
Important Insurance Coverages
Even the safest offices in the country will still face situations that they could never have prevented. The right commercial insurance will be available to medical offices when they need it the most, and it can take everything from direct costs to the costs of rebuilding a tarnished reputation. Doing more to protect your office can reduce your chances of ever needing to use your insurance immensely, but it can’t take care of everything.
The first step you can take is to research the limits of your current policy as well the exact kinds of coverage you have. For example, if a patient decides to sue you for pain and suffering, or if the government fines your office for failing to keep up with modern safety practices.
Learning more about how your insurance will respond to specific risks is a smart way to prepare yourself if the worst occurs. Having a backup plan that you can count on not only makes it easier to pay for everything, it also makes all of your responsibilities much easier to face.
Better protection isn’t about buying a product or having a few seminars in the office. Those steps would be easy, fast, and relatively painless. What protection really boils down to is an attitude the owners and leaders take toward everyone involved in their organization.
Whether an office has 20 patients or 200, there are plenty of ways to increase your protection. Putting additional resources into safety, updating or changing your insurance policies, and researching new protection methods are all long-term steps you can take toward a more successful (and more profitable) practice.