Legal Considerations Physician Executives Need to Consider When Working in Digital Health

by | Oct 19, 2022 | Health | 0 comments

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With technological advancements making it more convenient to communicate and manage medical data online, digital health has become increasingly more prevalent. This is reflected in a recent report from Globe Newswire, which finds that the digital health market will grow to a value of $1,041 billion by 2030.

Alongside the market’s slated growth is the rising demand for this type of healthcare. In response, more physicians are taking up executive positions in their own digital health companies. Telehealth platform Wheel’s post on physician executives in digital health, shares that the position is a leadership role that oversees both the medical and business dimensions of a company. It’s important to note that this position is an overarching term that may refer to other specific roles, such as medical director, chief medical officer, or owner of an affiliated medical corporation.

In digital health, these roles oversee the integration of technology in medical practice. That includes the legal considerations that physician executives must anticipate in digital health. Below are a few the physician executive must consider.

Informed patient consent

The standard practice of obtaining a patient’s consent before proceeding with a proposed treatment plan has been around for a while. According to Oschner Journal’s article on its modern history, it was campaigned in the early 20th century to assert the importance of a patient’s choice over what is done to their body. However, the landmark cases and mandates that followed have led to the idea that for patients to give consent, they must be fully aware of the nature of the treatment plan and all its risks and consequences. This is especially crucial for telehealth as it becomes more mainstream. Aside from the actual medical treatment, patients should be informed of the differences between a digital health treatment versus a traditional in-person intervention. Such details should be part of the consent protocol among your telehealth practitioners on top of the standard consent procedure.

Telehealth licensing

Digital health is becoming trickier as states tighten regulations on the boundaries of telehealth practices. This means that telehealth practitioners cannot just entertain patients from another state unless they are also licensed in that state. Some of the states that still allow for cross-state medical consultations are Arizona (requires registration) and Connecticut (until June 2023). With state lines imposed on the scope of your doctors’ patient network, it’s imperative that you work with your practitioners to help transfer treatments to patients’ home-state medical providers. Alternatively, you can determine where most of the patients you cater to reside. This will allow you to expand the scope of your doctors’ medical licenses more effectively.

Cybersecurity and patient data safety

As the name implies, telehealth is heavily reliant on digital and online technologies that are vulnerable to malicious wares and cyber attacks. To ensure that a prospective third-party platform is secure, consider using HIPAA-compliant tools that feature end-to-end encryption features and require users to identify themselves via multifactor authentication. Alternatively, you can also open a specific position in your company that focuses on cybersecurity. One such job would be the chief information security officer (CISO). Intermountain Healthcare CISO Erick Decker describes his role as monitoring system security, responding to cyber attacks, and reinforcing that same security over time.
Malpractice and liability
Malpractice cases do happen, even in digital health setups. As we discussed in our article “Know Why Medical Documentation is the Need of the Hour” you can prepare accordingly using medical documentation. This should include detailed patient records, treatment plans, and consultation minutes—all of which can be handy in litigation and when handling patient complaints. It’s also vital that you employ the services of a medical professional liability insurance company to protect your physicians.

Digital health proves that healthcare delivery can be made more efficient for both providers and patients. But as it is still in the process of becoming more mainstream in the field of medicine, physician executives must consider these legal issues to maximize telemedicine’s benefits and avoid any issues that could disrupt care.

AUTHOR ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

This piece was inspired by the HealthTech Magazine article “ATC 2022: What Does The Future Hold For Virtual Care?” which was written by HealthTech web editor Jordan Scott.

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