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WORKPLACE SAFETY

FDA reverses course on healthcare worker re-use of N95 masks

For decades, the N95 filtered mask has been a vital piece of personal protective equipment for frontline medical workers. But for months, shortages of that precious item which was previously taken for granted left countless health care workers defenseless from exposure to the coronavirus. The good news is that the N95 shortages have finally abated, with surplus stockpiles enough to last three to 12 months. As a result, federal regulators are beginning to unwind some of the health and safety shortcuts they authorized labs to take to deal with the lack of adequate N95 supplies. The FDA calls for ending N95 recycling & sharing National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) standards dictate that N95 masks be used once and then thrown away. But as an emergency response to… . . . read more.

HIPAA

Could your organization’s website reveal your HIPAA non-compliance?

By Danika Brinda Did you know that your organization’s website can reveal to the world that you are out of compliance with HIPAA? A quick look at your organization’s website could reveal to a HIPAA auditor that your organization is struggling with HIPAA compliance. Wondering what I am referring to? The Notice of Privacy Practices! The regulations state that your organization must ensure that the most current version of your Notice of Privacy Practices is posted on the organization’s website (if one exists). Here is the specific language of the regulations: CFR 164.520(c)(3)(i) – A covered entity that maintains a website that provides information about the covered entity’s customer services or benefits must prominently post its notice (of privacy practices) on their website and make the notice available electronically through their website. Go… . . . read more.

FALSE CLAIMS

Provider pays $214K for violating federal COVID-19 workplace protocols

In one of the first of what will likely be a flood of enforcement actions, the Texas parent of an Iowa nursing home has agreed to repay $214,200 in federal monies for not following coronavirus safety protocols during an outbreak at the facility from April through July 2020. Among other things, the nursing home didn’t properly screen employees or require them to wear personal protective equipment. According to newspaper reports, three employees exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms and who subsequently tested positive for the virus were allowed to come to work and be near vulnerable residents, 11 of whom died during the outbreak. The False Claims Act connection The relatively small settlement award belies the importance of this case. What the case illustrates is that failure to follow COVID-19 protocols can result… . . . read more.

QUIZ

Who Has OSHA responsibility for the health & safety of a temp?

What are your OSHA duties to temporary workers (“temps”) whom you hire from a temp agency to work at your medical office? Stated differently, are you or the temp agency responsible for the temp’s health and safety? Here’s a set of scenario quizzes that illustrate how the rules work. SCENARIO 1: RESPONSIBILITY FOR HAZCOM TRAINING The Temps R’Us Agency (Agency) assigns an employee to temporary work at XYZ Medical Office (Office). Agency is aware that Office’s workers handle and use hazardous chemicals for testing operations. But the temp has no Hazcom training whatsoever. As a result, he suffers an injury as a result of exposure to a toxic chemical while working for Office. QUESTION Who’s responsible for providing the temp the required Hazcom training? Agency Office Both Neither ANSWER Both… . . . read more.

COMPLIANCE

Beware of privacy pitfalls when remotely monitoring telecommuters

Before the pandemic, 80 percent of U.S. employees worked primarily from an external workplace; today, only 21 percent do. Coaxing employees to return to the workplace will be an uphill battle, with recent surveys, including one from Pew Research, suggesting that 54 percent of those who are currently working remotely want to continue spending at least some of their working hours at home. In short, as with other employers, medical offices need to adjust to the realities of telecommuting. Among the biggest challenges will be maintaining productivity. One potential solution is to deploy technologies that monitor employees’ whereabouts and use of computer and other work equipment to verify that employees who work remotely are actually doing their jobs. Unfortunately, doing this exposes your office to liability risks under privacy and… . . . read more.

TOOL

Model Medical Office Employee Remote Monitoring of Telecommuters Policy

Letting employees telecommute poses significant operational and management challenges to employers, not the least of which is ensuring that employees are actually doing their jobs and meeting expected productivity standards when working from home. Software, apps and other monitoring technology can go a long way in meeting this goal; but it can also get you into hot water under privacy and other laws. The best way to manage privacy liability risk is to include specific language in your telecommuting policies and arrangements that provides for monitoring. The idea is to let employees know exactly what you’re going to do and how, and ensure they don’t have reasonable expectations in the information collected. Here’s some model language you can adapt for your own use.

ENFORCEMENT

Federal COVID-19 relief fraud crackdown begins

As with so many other businesses, federal COVID-19 relief was (and, in some cases, still is) the only thing that kept some practices afloat during the darkest days of the pandemic. But with the virus in apparent retreat, business is getting back to normal. And that includes the business of enforcing the federal laws. Among the first orders of business for federal investigators and prosecutors will be to crack down on recipients who took advantage of COVID-19 relief funds. While not uniquely a health care initiative, this new initiative will undoubtedly have a direct effect on medical practices. In fact, it already has. Colorado Physician Indicted for COVID-19 Ripoff In one of the first of what’s bound to be many cases, the U.S. Justice Department indicted a 56-year-old Colorado physician… . . . read more.

COMPLIANCE

New HHS policy makes your office potentially liable for LGBTQ discrimination

While it doesn’t directly relate to billing and reimbursement, federal civil rights laws have an impact on certain aspects of healthcare operations. These laws ban your office from discriminating on the basis of protected personal characteristics, including sex. So, compliance managers need to be aware that on May 10, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued an important bulletin affecting how the ban on sex discrimination will be enforced from now. Specifically, sex discrimination will go beyond just a person’s sex or gender but also their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Here’s a rundown of the law and how it might affect your operations. Federal Discrimination Law, 101 The U.S. Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal to discriminate in different aspects of public activity, including employment and… . . . read more.

COMPLIANCE

Wage whispers: Can we stop salary talk?

By Paul Edwards When one employee finds out another employee makes more money, it can send ripples throughout your entire workplace. In light of the morale damage this kind of talk can cause, you may be tempted to tell employees not to discuss salaries at all. The problem is employees have a legal right to discuss their salaries with other employees because of existing NLRA protections. What is the NLRA? The NLRA or National Labor Relations Act, is a large, developing area of federal law that’s rapidly changing the way you can regulate your employees’ speech, both on and off the job. Section 7 of the NLRA grants union and non-union employees alike the right to engage in certain activities so they may collectively bargain. These protections apply to all speech related… . . . read more.

TOOL

HIPAA compliance checklist

Having a complete HIPAA compliance program is important to your organization. Run through this HIPAA compliance checklist to see if you have your foundation of HIPAA compliance in place and easily retrievable. HIPAA Policies and Procedures HIPAA privacy policies, procedures, and forms HIPAA security policies, procedures, and forms HIPAA Breach Notification policy and procedure Most recent Notice of Privacy practices Privacy officer’s job responsibilities and contact information Security officer’s job responsibilities and contact information HIPAA workflows and evidence of compliance Most recent HIPAA Risk Analysis Most current HIPAA risk mitigation/risk management documentation Business Associate agreements with list of Business Associates Workforce HIPAA training, periodic HIPAA updates, HIPAA training log Password policies by system Workstation security practices (anti-virus, password requirement, password timeframes, workstation use, etc.) HIPAA documentation specific to the organization… . . . read more.


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