Law and Medicine—where worlds collide and good things sometimes happen

Last week I was on the road to Boston and then Chicago. I have already shared my experiences at the Kennedy Forum Gala and Conference held in Boston. Now, I’ll tell you about the Chicago segment of my journey where I provided a Friday morning keynote for the American Bar Association’s Physicians Legal Issues Conference held at the historic Palmer House Hilton. This annual conference is held by the American Bar Association Health Law Section in conjunction with the Chicago Medical Society and the American Association for Physician leadership.

Medicine and LawBecause of my commitment at the Kennedy Forum, I didn’t arrive in Chicago until Wednesday evening. The Physicians Legal Issues Conference had begun that afternoon. As you might imagine, the conference was quite different from the usual health and tech industry conferences that bring me in to speak. First of all, as best I could tell, about 75 percent of the attendees where lawyers. Approximately 20 percent of attendees were physicians, and the rest where either health industry executives or physician-lawyers.

Thursday morning started off with a keynote by Paul Keckley, Ph.D. on The State of Payment Innovation. Dr. Keckley and I are very much on the same page regarding the issues we see ahead for the health industry. In a June 15 blog post, Dr. Keckley writes that the healthcare industry in America suffers from a kind of “visual impairment”. He says;

Many of our organizations are near-sighted: They’re clear about what’s right in front of them in their sector – continued pressure to reduce costs, continued consolidation, escalating transparency about prices and quality, the volume to value incentive changes and uncertainty about the impact of health reform. But, their field of vision is too narrow. Near sighted organizations know little about other sectors and have a blurred view of the industry’s future long-term. The diagnosis: myopia.

A few organizations and agencies are far-sighted: They see the future clearly but can’t see well what’s right in front of them. These organizations sometimes stumble over potholes not seen—the competencies needed to get from here to there, the risks associated with inaction, the cultural changes needed to successfully transform their organization. The diagnosis: hyperopia.

Law and MedicineLooking through a perhaps much narrower tech industry lens I tend to see the same things Dr. Keckley sees. This is especially true of healthcare leaders who believe they are transforming their business by purchasing an expensive electronic health record solution for their hospital or clinic. Although necessary and foundational, the EHR is only a stepping stone among many other things that are needed to truly transform the ways clinicians work, how services are made more accessible, how quality is measured and improved, and how hospitals and clinics will survive against the fierce competition coming at them from retailers, payment-squeezing payors, and changes in consumer expectations and demand for services.

To provide a bit more flavor on the many subjects covered at the Physician’s Legal Issues Conference here are just a few of the agenda titles on topics that are no doubt giving physicians heartburn these days:

  • The Federal Stark Law and Anti-kickback Statute: Keeping up with Recent Trends
  • Navigating the Perilous Waters of the False Claims Act from Medical Necessity to the Anti-Kickback Statute and Beyond
  • Maintaining and Sustaining an Independent Practice
  • Telemedicine Compliance-Maximizing Patient Care & ROI while Minimizing Government Risks
  • Negotiating Managed Care Contracts
  • OCR’s Anatomy-HIPAA Breaches, Investigations, and Enforcement

Like I said, this conference was a bit different from those I normally attend and speak at but extremely interesting and highly valuable to any clinician, lawyer or healthcare executive who needs to say on top of legal issues and trends impacting the health industry. If you know someone who works as a clinician leader or healthcare executive you might want to recommend this conference. You might also want to give him or her a big hug and say thank you. It’s not easy working in healthcare these days.

Bill Crounse, MD Senior Director, Worldwide Health Microsoft    

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