Every business comes with legal challenges that must be properly understood and compliance-related matters that must be accommodated in the course of doing business.
Just like any industry, the healthcare sector has a rather robust legal framework defining, regulating and circumscribing its scope. In the same way, health care providers are considered specialists within the health and medical space, Lawyers with health and medical experience are considered experts in assisting their medical clientele in interpreting the Law and staying right by it.
From research, one of the biggest legal challenges in the healthcare industry is Medical Malpractice. For clarity sake, when a doctor makes an unavoidable mistake that another doctor would have made under the same condition, it is just a medical accident. If, however, a mistake is made as a result of misfeasance, nonfeasance, or non-compliance with the proper standard of care expected from a healthcare provider, it is medical malpractice.
If the mistake is negligent but results in unintended harm, it falls under medical negligence.
For an issue to be considered medical malpractice under the law, the claim must have certain characteristics such as recklessness or intentional harm or absence of Client consent. Many healthcare providers do not fully understand the ramifications of these regulatory laws and as a result, do not understand the consequences of not complying with them. This is where the essence of a legal team is seen.
It is the duty of your lawyer to explain the legal aspect of every issue to you hence, preventing possible sanctions from professional bodies or loss of revenue in court-ordered settlements.
It only makes sense that if more hospitals had legal teams, there would be lesser cases of medical malpractices and even medical negligence. This is because healthcare providers will have more legal help and knowledge which will properly guide their decisions and actions.
Now, what is a legal team?
A legal team is a permanent entity in your company that provides legal services to the business. It consists of a group of lawyers who may be specializing in different fields, such as employment and commercial, and may also include paralegals.
A legal team is saddled with the primary responsibility of providing legal advice on contracts and employment-related matters. A legal team works effectively with other teams in an organisation to jointly achieve the smooth running of operations.
A hospital, just like any other organisation, certainly needs a legal team. This legal team is responsible for:
- giving objective legal advice,
- providing solutions to issues regarding agreements, contracts and rights,
- and generally, upholding the best interest of the hospital.
These lawyers work strategically with the healthcare providers, members of the business team, administrators, patients, and their families to resolve medico-legal issues promptly and efficiently.
Pros of having a legal team in your hospital
In detail, the areas in which a legal team can provide help in your hospital can include:
1. Legal consult with hospital management and operations personnel.
Your legal team has to constantly provide legal advice on any and every issue involving the hospital and a third party. These third parties could be patients, staff, business associates or international bodies and organizations. The legal team always has the best interest of the hospital at heart. Hence, they would only sail decision-making in a direction that suits the hospital.
2. Help with long-term business planning.
Though a business plan is not exactly a legal document, it is relevant to the legal issues related to the business. An effective business plan is usually made following decisions on the legal issues related to the business. Thus, it is best to get your lawyer involved in its creation and review to create a business plan with you that falls on the right side of the law.
3. Help with interpretation of laws and legislation.
There are usually sets of legal rules guiding every business, whether big or small, and the businesses are expected to adhere to these laws. Therefore, every business needs a lawyer to ensure they walk the tight rope between the provision of health care services and regulatory compliance. Lawyers help businesses void lawsuits and legal violations that may impact their operations.
4. Proper preparation and drafting of the hospital’s “patient and family rights”.
Every hospital needs to have an established set of rights or rules of engagement that is known to patients and their families. The legal team is in the best position to help determine, draft and effectively communicate these rules and policies. Healthcare lawyers work with both medical providers and patients to ensure these patients’ rights are respected. These rules of engagement range from the right to informed consent, the right to privacy of medical records and to even more controversial rights of abortion, euthanasia, gender identification.
5. Preparation and vetting of contracts and agreements.
All paperwork ranging from business contracts to employment contracts and even patient agreements ought to be properly prepared and vetted by your legal team to avoid legal complications.
6. Ensure legal and statutory compliance in hospitals.
Lawyers that work in the healthcare sector constantly update themselves on local and international laws and regulatory compliance because it is an important part of healthcare dealings. This involves being up-to-date on matters associated with the health sector such as but not limited to taxes, licenses and malpractice issues.
A few reasons have been considered, and these by no means are a conclusive list. Hospitals both big and small certainly need a medico-legal team. It not only helps with lawsuits but with strategic planning of the business, drafting contracts, and operating the business in line with the guiding laws and international best practices in the delivery of a holistic health care service.
Author: Ishola Agboola