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How to Use Influencers for Medical Spa Advertising

Posted By Administration, Monday, December 2, 2019

influencer

By Sam Pondrom, JD, Associate, ByrdAdatto

Social media is discussed ad nauseam, so it’s always important to begin any discussion of social media by placing it in context. About 3.5 billion (with a “B”) people actively use social media every day, and about 3.46 billion people access it via mobile devices. This amounts to about half of the world’s population. Worldwide, the average person spends around seven hours per day on the internet, and two and a half hours of that seven is spent on social media. This means that roughly one-third of all internet use on a given day is social media-based. Advertisers in the U.S. will spend anywhere from $15 to $30 billion on social media marketing this year alone to reach those users. So, for better or worse, social media is not going anywhere anytime soon.

The engagement of “influencers” is a popular method of advertising on social media. As you likely already know, influencers are social media users who, by virtue of their looks, personality or talent, have developed large follower bases. These follower bases are easily reached by the influencer, and, because follower bases are self-selecting (e.g., the followers choose to follow the influencers), they are particularly susceptible to the influencer’s message. Consequently, influencer advertising is highly valued, since brands borrow the influencer’s reach and credibility to spread their advertising messages, which are often designed to blur the lines between organic user content and paid influencer advertisement.

However, this blurring of the lines often leads to issues with using influencers in medical advertising. So, if you currently use or plan to use social media influencer advertising, here’s what you need to know.

State medical advertising laws. It’s important to remember that no matter how you choose to advertise, you must comply with your state’s medical advertising laws.  While these laws vary from state to state, every state has a standard similar to this: Do not advertise in any manner that is false, deceptive, or misleading. So, what does that mean? You must take care to advertise in such a way that you do not, among other issues, create unjustified expectations about results; advertise or assure a permanent cure for an incurable condition; guarantee results; advertise professional superiority that cannot be verified; provide false, deceptive or misleading testimonials; or fail to identify models and actors used in advertising. Thus, when engaging an influencer for advertising purposes, you must first consider your state’s restrictions to ensure your advertisement is compliant.

FTC advertising requirements. On top of your state’s medical advertising laws, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has rules prohibiting “unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices” in commerce. While this is a broad prohibition, compliance with the FTC can be reduced to three simple concepts: honesty, transparency and disclosure. The FTC is particularly concerned with the fact that the average social media user may have trouble distinguishing between organic user content and paid advertising. To that end, the FTC has determined that anytime an influencer performs marketing services, they are making what the FTC considers an endorsement. Accordingly, the FTC requires that an influencer must disclose any material connections that exist related to the product or service when using social media to make an endorsement. Material connections are connections that might affect the weight or credibility consumers give the endorsement. So, an influencer must disclose a business or family relationship related to the advertisement, a monetary payment connected to the advertisement, or the receipt of free product or services related to the advertisement. The disclosure must be made in plain language that is easy to see or hear, and is clear across all social media platforms and devices.

Use a contract. As made clear in the sections above, using influencers for medical advertising requires careful regulatory consideration. Accordingly, it’s important to use contracts to allocate risk and reduce the potential for unmet expectations.  There are multiple potential pitfalls associated with engaging an influencer for medical advertising. By using a contract, you can address these issues and ensure key items such as content, payment, competition and regulatory compliance are all addressed. For example, you may want to give the influencer creative license in writing the advertisement so their voice comes through (or not). Regardless of who is writing the ad, a physician must have final say over any and all medical claims. You may also want to get creative in compensating the influencer, but you must structure the payment in a manner that is compliant with your state’s anti-kickback laws. By memorializing the important aspects of the influencer-advertiser relationship, you can ensure the advertising meets your standards and expectations and the relationship complies with relevant state and federal law.

AmSpa members receive a complimentary 20-minute Introductory Compliance Assessment with a ByrdAdatto attorney. Click here to learn how to join AmSpa today!

As the youngest of three brothers, Sam Pondrom learned early on how to work effectively as part of a team. After graduating from Oklahoma State, an intrinsic sense of curiosity and a keen eye for details led Sam to work as an accountant for two Engineering-News Record top 40 construction firms. It was here where he honed his ability to analyze complex issues and craft clear, concise answers. Sam utilizes these skills to work in partnership with our clients to resolve their complex business and regulatory concerns in the most simple, straightforward way.

Tags:  ByrdAdatto  Med Spa Law  Med Spa Trends 

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Who Can Do What in a Medical Spa?

Posted By Administration, Friday, November 15, 2019

medical spa team

By Bala Mohan, JD, ByrdAdatto

As the new kid on the block, medical spas are breaking the mold of the traditional medical practice model. The merging of medicine and day spa services has created a new industry with multiple governing authorities to regulate it and the varying roles within it.

Most medical spas provide some combination of medical and aesthetic procedures—lasers, Botox, fillers, Kybella, microneedling, microdermabrasion, dermaplaning, chemical peels, dermabrasion and CoolSculpting. Often, this menu of services blurs the line between medical and spa treatments. While these procedures are considered medical in most states, exemptions exist in others. For example, the cosmetology boards of certain states allow aestheticians and cosmetologists to perform microdermabrasion and dermaplaning, as long as the procedure does not penetrate the dermal layer of the skin. On the other hand, more restrictive state regulating boards limit aesthetic and cosmetology practices to the topmost layer of the skin. This leads to the common question—who can do what in a medical spa?

The authority to administer medical aesthetic treatments follows a basic hierarchy:

  1. Physician;
  2. Nurse practitioner (NP) and physician assistant (PA);
  3. Registered nurse (RN);
  4. Licensed practical nurse (LPN)/licensed vocational nurse (LVN); and
  5. Aesthetician, cosmetologist and unlicensed personnel.

Physicians

Physicians have the broadest authority and often fill the role of owner or medical director in medical spas. The delegation of medical treatments to the rest of the staff falls under the supervision of these physicians, and sometimes NPs and PAs.

NPs and PAs

Certain states grant independent practice authority to NPs, and in those states, physician delegation or supervision is not required. Independent practice NPs can provide medical procedures falling under their scope of practice. Where NPs due not have autonomy, state laws generally indicate the level of physician supervision required for both NPs and PAs. In most cases, NPs practice in collaboration with a physician. Depending on the state’s laws, collaboration commonly follows written protocols (e.g., a list of delegated medical tasks, restrictions or limitations, prescriptive authority and level of supervision). Similarly, PAs usually practice pursuant to a supervision or delegation agreement, addressing their scope of practice and any applicable restrictions.

RNs

The scope of practice of an RN is more limited and subject to stricter delegation and supervision than that of an NP or PA. Unless state law dictates otherwise, a qualified physician or independent practice NP may delegate medical tasks to RNs, as long as the procedure is within their scope of practice and competency has been verified. If required, written protocols are delineated and appropriate supervision provided. If state laws do not define the level of supervision, the delegating practitioner must use their professional judgement to identify and engage in it appropriately.

LPN/LVN

The scope of practice of LPNs/LVNs is more limited and subject to stricter delegation and supervision than an NP, PA or RN. State laws generally dictate the medical tasks that a qualified physician or independent practice NP can delegate to LPNs/LVNs, whether written protocols are required, and the appropriate level of supervision. Similar to RNs, if state laws do not define the level of supervision, the delegating practitioner must use professional judgement to identify and engage in it appropriately.

Aestheticians and Cosmetologists

There is much confusion in the medical spa world about who is considered licensed personnel. While aestheticians and cosmetologists are licensed by cosmetology boards, they are considered unlicensed personnel by medical standards. They generally are permitted to perform spa procedures—e.g., facials and certain types of massages—that fall under their cosmetology licensure, but prohibited from doing anything requiring medical training.

Unlicensed Personnel

In addition to estheticians and cosmetologists, medical assistants (MAs) are considered unlicensed personnel for medical treatments and can perform treatments in medical spas only as state law allows. With limited to no medical training, these staff members generally are not permitted to perform medical or invasive procedures. Even if state law allows delegation, it often requires that the delegating practitioner provide onsite direct supervision during procedures. Delegation of medical treatments to unlicensed personnel must be approached with extreme caution.

From state to state, laws related to medical spa treatments vary from the very detailed to the very sparse, leaving room for legal interpretation.

AmSpa members receive a complimentary 20-minute Introductory Compliance Assessment with a ByrdAdatto attorney. Click here to learn how to join AmSpa today!

Bala Mohan, JD, knew from a very young age that her choice of career would be related to science because she excelled in her biology and chemistry coursework. With a strong passion for genetics and the desire to find a cure for her mother—who was diagnosed with diabetes at an early age—Mohan obtained a Bachelor of Technology in Pharmaceutical Biotechnology. Having worked as a scientific researcher during her undergraduate studies, Mohan greatly values attention to detail and is a meticulous person. She then pursued a master’s in Entrepreneurial Biotechnology to gain knowledge about business and startups. This landed her a position with Cleveland Clinic Innovations, where she evaluated over 100 innovations and negotiated deals with potential investors. In this role, Mohan had the opportunity to interact with business and health care lawyers from multiple health care organizations, and she quickly realized that her real calling in life was to be a health care attorney. Subsequently Mohan obtained her JD and was able to pursue a career that combined all her interests—science, business, and law.

Tags:  ByrdAdatto  Med Spa Law 

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What Medical Spa Owners Need to Know About LLC Taxation

Posted By Administration, Monday, November 4, 2019

tax forms

By James M. Stanford, JD, Partner, ByrdAdatto

Fake or Real: My company is taxed as an LLC—Fake!

There is no such thing as being taxed as a limited liability company (LLC).

Clients, as well as tax and legal professionals, routinely confuse entity structure with tax classification. Quite commonly, we hear clients state that an entity is taxed as an LLC when, in fact, no such tax classification exists.

Many people do not realize that when forming an entity—such as a medical spa—typically there are two principle filings. Understanding the difference can alleviate a lot of confusion.

  1. The first filing is at the state level, which incorporates the company as a legal entity (i.e., filing as a limited liability company).
  2. The second filing—or filings—are with the Internal Revenue Service to obtain an employer identification number. This filing determines how the new entity will be treated from a federal tax perspective.

An LLC is purely a state-level entity structure. In turn, the LLC elects how it will be taxed: either as a partnership, an S corporation, a C corporation or a disregarded entity. Generally, when someone says they are taxed as an LLC, what they really mean is that they are taxed as a partnership.

AmSpa members receive a complimentary 20-minute Introductory Compliance Assessment with a ByrdAdatto attorney. Click here to learn how to join AmSpa today!

James M. Stanford is an attorney and partner at the ByrdAdatto law firm. From transitions, mergers, and acquisitions to structuring complex ownership arrangements, James enjoys the personal reward that comes from bringing parties together and making deals happen. James practices primarily in the areas of health care and corporate law with a focus on intellectual property. A proud father, Jim served in the U.S. Army and is fluent in Russian. In his spare time, he enjoys hunting, fishing, and spending time outdoors.

Tags:  Business and Financials  ByrdAdatto  Med Spa Law 

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How Forming an LLC Can Help Your Medical Spa

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, October 30, 2019

llc

By Courtney P. Cowan, JD, ByrdAdatto

Beginning Labor Day Weekend through the first few weeks of 2020, you will find ByrdAdatto attorney Robert Fisher proudly wearing the same red fishing shirt imprinted with the distinctive University of Georgia “G” logo. That garish shirt signals to everyone in the office that college football is upon us. We take football seriously at ByrdAdatto—and in the state of Texas, generally—so it seemed fitting to compare the similarities of our two loves of college football and limited liability companies (LLCs). “What could these two things possibly have in common?” you ask. The answer is simple: absolutely nothing.

But that hasn’t seemed to stop people, particularly college football coaches, from using LLCs as a means of conducting business. Originally used as a way to circumvent the optics of making more money than prominent state officials, collegiate head coaches formed LLCs to function as depositories for the large amount of supplemental income they received in addition to their base salaries. A recent Dallas Morning News article detailed some of the reasons for doing this, including tax relief and liability protection.

While we appreciate the publicity the head football coaches bring to the LLC, these reasons are not novel to those familiar with this business structure. Many business owners, accountants and attorneys have long been proponents of the LLC due to the advantages offered by it, including:

  • Tax flexibility: The LLC can elect to be taxed as a disregarded entity, partnership or corporation (s-corporation or c-corporation). By default, an LLC is taxed as a “pass-through entity” (i.e., a disregarded entity or partnership, depending on the number of members), meaning all of the profits and losses of the LLC “pass through” the LLC to the members, who then report the profits and losses on their personal tax returns. The LLC itself does not pay federal income taxes, unless it elects to be taxed as a c-corporation.
  • Limited personal liability: The owners (members) of an LLC are protected from the liabilities and creditors of the LLC as long as the LLC is formed and operated properly. Moreover, LLCs provide protection against outside liabilities (i.e., the liabilities of the other members).
  • Perpetual existence: The LLC can survive the death of its owners. This means the business will survive even if its owners do not.

Whether you are a Power Five coach making millions or a small medical spa, virtually anyone can form and take advantage of the benefits of an LLC.

AmSpa members receive a complimentary 20-minute Introductory Compliance Assessment with a ByrdAdatto attorney. Click here to learn how to join AmSpa today!

As the daughter of a periodontist, Courtney P. Cowan has been fascinated by the health care field since childhood. She often accompanied her father to his office, where she developed an appreciation for physicians and their respective practices. Having absolutely none of the dexterity that is required to be a surgeon, however, Cowan instead decided to pursue a degree in business while attending Baylor University. It wasn’t until she was required to take a business law course that she discovered her passion for the law. After graduating from Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law, Cowan serendipitously connected with ByrdAdatto and now assists clients by combining her business background with her enthusiasm for health care and the law.

Tags:  Business and Financials  ByrdAdatto 

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How the Update to the Texas Privacy Breach Notification Law Could Affect Your Medical Spa

Posted By Administration, Friday, October 11, 2019

data breach

By Jay Reyero, JD, Partner, ByrdAdatto

Target. Equifax. Facebook. Capital One. For us, a data breach is a reminder that the sensitive information we routinely entrust to organizations has inherent value and can be subject to nefarious attacks. For organizations, it is a reminder of the great responsibility accepted because of the great power received from valuable information. For states across the country, it is a reminder that more needs to be done in the fight for privacy and protection of sensitive information. With the passage of House Bill 4390 (HB 4390), Texas has showed how it plans to address the privacy of personal identifying information.

Signed into law on June 14, 2019, HB 4390 amends Texas’s privacy breach notification law—Texas Business and Commerce Code Chapter 521, Identity Theft Enforcement and Protection Act—by specifying a time frame for when notice of a breach is required and creating a notification requirement to state regulators. Beginning January 1, 2020, if a breach occurs and disclosure is required, the disclosure must be made “without unreasonable delay and in each case not later than the 60th day after the date on which the person determines that the breach occurred.” Previously, the disclosure only needed to be made “as quickly as possible.”

It is important to understand that the 60-day time frame doesn’t create a window for compliance, so organizations should not feel comfortable simply getting disclosures out by the 60th day to comply. Instead, organizations are first responsible to provide disclosure “without unreasonable delay,” which, depending on the circumstances, could be well short of the 60 days. If the circumstances support a reasonable delay approaching 60 days, an organization will then need to ensure that disclosure is provided before the deadline.

Also, beginning January 1, 2020, HB 4390 requires notification to the attorney general for breaches involving at least 250 Texas residents. The notice will need to include:

  1. A detailed description of the breach;
  2. The number of residents affected;
  3. The current and planned mitigation efforts; and
  4. Any law enforcement involvement.

All organizations subject to Texas’s breach notification law should begin reviewing and updating their breach notification policies in preparation for the new rules in 2020.

In addition to the current changes to the Texas privacy breach notification law, HB 4390 signals that Texas is not done addressing privacy with the creation of the Texas Privacy Protection Advisory Council. The purpose of the council will be to study various privacy laws and make recommendations to the Texas legislature on specific changes regarding privacy and protection of sensitive information.

To learn more about legal and business best practices to keep your med spa compliant and profitable, attend one of AmSpa’s Medical Spa & Aesthetic Boot Camps and become the next med spa success story.

Jay Reyero, JD, is a partner at the business, healthcare, and aesthetic law firm of ByrdAdatto. He has a background as both a litigator and transactional attorney, bringing a unique and balanced perspective to the firm’s clients. His health care and regulatory expertise involves the counseling and advising of physicians, physician groups, other medical service providers and non-professionals. Specific areas of expertise include federal and state health care regulations and how they impact investments, transactions and various contractual arrangements, particularly in the areas of federal and state anti-referral, anti-kickback and HIPAA compliance.

Tags:  AmSpa's Med Spa & Aesthetic Boot Camps  ByrdAdatto  Med Spa Law  Med Spa Trends 

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How Your Medical Spa Can Address Negative Patient Reviews

Posted By Administration, Monday, September 30, 2019

one star

By Kita McCray, JD, ByrdAdatto

Benjamin Franklin said, “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.” It’s been a couple of centuries since Franklin made this statement, yet the same remains true today. It is especially true in health care, where patient dissatisfaction can be amplified with just a few keystrokes and the click of a mouse.

On one hand, the internet has expanded our accessibility to one another and information; on the other hand, it provides a medium for bad reviews and feedback to travel further and faster than our reputations can keep up with. As a result, many patients think they “know” their providers before they ever meet them. So, what’s the solution when that one dissatisfied patient tries to start a fire by posting a negative review of you or your practice? The answer is simple: Dilute the fire—the solution to pollution is dilution.

Jeff Segal, MD, JD, a ByrdAdatto partner and CEO of Medical Justice, has built a simple strategy for dealing with negative patient reviews. Specifically, when writing a response to a negative patient review, you must remember these five golden rules:

  1. A model response shows the practice is reasonable and isn’t engaged in a debate;
  2. A model response educates the public;
  3. A model response addresses the concerns raised in the review;
  4. A model response takes the conversation offline; and
  5. A model response does not address the author directly.

Segal further advises that the person or employee who is responsible for locating and responding to negative reviews should commit to these rules in order to dilute or drown out the dissatisfied voices in the crowd. These rules also will help you to avoid potential violations of HIPAA or professional licensing board regulations that may cause regulators to perceive the filtering of negative reviews as false and deceptive advertising.

Remember that it takes two flints to make a fire. Engaging in a debate with a dissatisfied patient in a public way is a bottomless pit. Once you fall in, it can be difficult to pull your reputation out.

To learn more about legal and business best practices to keep your med spa compliant and profitable, attend one of AmSpa’s Medical Spa & Aesthetic Boot Camps and become the next med spa success story.

Kita McCray’s decision to become a lawyer was solidified in fourth grade after job shadowing a local lawyer in her hometown of Ferriday, Louisiana. In college, Kita dedicated all her enthusiasm and energy to becoming well-read in classic English literature before attending law school. But while working as a public health graduate researcher, she developed an interest in health law and policy, and decided to focus her legal studies toward health care law.  Today, Kita brings the full scope of her multidisciplinary background to assist clients with their business and health care needs.

Tags:  AmSpa's Med Spa & Aesthetic Boot Camps  ByrdAdatto  Med Spa Law 

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Building Your Exit Plan

Posted By Administration, Friday, September 27, 2019

doctors speaking

By Bradford E. Adatto, partner, ByrdAdatto

My father is a retired orthopedic surgeon. I’ve witnessed his personal retirement journey and know that closing the book on a successful practice can feel both daunting and exciting. But before you begin that last chapter, you must first define your goals and set yourself up to meet them.

There are several steps a physician should consider in building an exit plan: practice assessment and valuation; pinpointing late-career and retirement goals; and, finally, customizing your plan. More than anything, you need to make a plan. The most common struggle among our physician clients is taking action, because they become paralyzed by the complicated question of “when” to retire.

Practice assessment and valuation means realistically evaluating the current state of your practice and understanding your practice’s financial value. The valuation process requires you to recognize and identify your revenue streams, how they differ (professional services vs. ancillary services) and how they contribute to your bottom line. Additionally, during the practice assessment process, it’s important to assess your practice’s legal health. Even financially successful practices can be impacted by compliance issues. Recognize ahead of time if your legal model is helping or hurting your practice and make changes accordingly. You will also want to evaluate your practice from a cultural perspective. If a prospective buyer will inherit your team, it is important to be realistic as to whether there are dysfunction issues or overpaid staff that commonly result from long-term employment with a practice.

Ultimately, a successful valuation of your practice results from years of fostering goodwill with your patients. Practice goodwill relates to your practice’s ability to continue to generate earnings without the presence of any particular physician. If you want to eventually be in a position to sell, you must brand and run your practice as an enterprise. Patients must be seen as transferrable to the buying physician, and creating practice goodwill helps ensure that.

Next, it’s time to determine your retirement goals and late-career objectives. Think about your legacy and the impact you’d like to leave. Think about if you’d like to retire in stages (surgery first, cutting hours, etc.). Based on those intentions, we at ByrdAdatto can help customize a plan that sets you up for success.

While there are many exit strategies, the four most common plans we see at our firm are:

  • The Fixer-Upper Plan: This plan is all about repurposing your practice to fit your late-career goals and retirement timeline. Basically, it requires some legal restructuring. For example, under this plan, we’ve had clients develop separate entities as cost centers under a single legal model. This remodeling allows each entity to operate more independently, but still develop value under a single legal model.
  • The Sensei Plan: You, the sensei, will teach him or her, the student. This plan follows the standard concept of bringing on an associate, training him or her as a partner, and prepping him or her to take the reins in a buyout. Under this model, it is extremely important that the sensei and student develop the four Cs: cost, control, contingencies and compensation. Without mapping these elements, expectations from both parties are often unmet.
  • The Old School Plan: For many clients, the retirement timeline is compressed. Once they decide it’s time, the process of stopping practicing moves forward in months, as opposed to years. Historically, these late practice sales have ended in less value, but that is not always the case. We have worked with clients on creative solutions to retire on a shorter horizon, while still capturing full and fair value for their practice.
  • The Drop the Mic Plan: This is your show, and you draw the curtains the way you want, when you want. This exit requires you to position the practice—financially, legally and operationally—in a way that allows you to walk away on your own terms. Here, we help leverage offers to optimize your endgame.

The last bit of advice I offer is from my father: Once you retire, keep yourself busy—no matter your exit plan.

To learn more about legal and business best practices to keep your med spa compliant and profitable, attend one of AmSpa’s Medical Spa & Aesthetic Boot Camps and become the next med spa success story.

Bradford E. Adatto is a partner at ByrdAdatto, a national business and health care boutique law firm with offices in Dallas and Chicago. His background is in regulatory, transactional and securities law. Having worked in health care law his entire career, he has an in-depth knowledge of the “dos and don’ts” of this heavily regulated industry. Brad has worked with physicians, physician groups, and other medical service providers in developing ambulatory surgical centers, in-office and freestanding ancillary service facilities, and other medical joint ventures. He regularly counsels clients with respect to federal and state health care regulations that impact investments, transactions and contract terms, including Medicare fraud and abuse, antitrust, anti-kickback, anti-referral, and private securities laws. Adatto has been recognized as Top Rated Lawyer by the Dallas Morning News (2016) and a Best Lawyer in Dallas in health care by D Magazine (2016 & 2018-2019), selected as a Best Lawyer in America in health care (2017-2019), and was recently named a Best Lawyer in Texas (2019) and Texas Super Lawyer, published by Thompson Reuters (2019).

Tags:  Business and Financials  ByrdAdatto  Med Spa Trends 

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How Your Medical Spa Can Legally Use Telemedicine

Posted By Administration, Friday, September 20, 2019

telemedicine

By Bala Mohan, JD, ByrdAdatto

Telemedicine is gaining popularity and acceptance across the United States. Some of the benefits of telemedicine include easing health care access to patients in remote and underserved areas, increasing cost-effectiveness, efficiently delivering health care service, and broadening the opportunity to receive secondary opinions. Telemedicine, in a nutshell, is the provision of health care services using telecommunication from a health care practitioner in one location to a patient in another. However, telemedicine compliance is tricky and varies from state to state. In addition to state laws, telemedicine also is subject to federal reimbursement, patient privacy and confidentiality laws.

This article will focus on the basic state law compliance considerations and general rules for providing telemedicine in your medical practice; however, any decision to provide telemedicine requires deeper scrutiny of the laws and regulations.

  1. Licensure. Clients commonly ask if they can provide telemedicine to a patient in another state. Typically, the practitioner providing the service must be licensed in the state where the patient is physically located. However, as with everything else in law, there are exceptions. For example, Maryland exempts physicians licensed in an adjoining state from obtaining a Maryland license, and Minnesota has a provision for physicians not licensed in the state to practice medicine in Minnesota via telemedicine by meeting certain telemedicine registration requirements. Appropriate physician licensure is a necessity when practicing medicine across state lines because providing telemedicine services in a state where the practitioner is not licensed can result in disciplinary action—including civil or criminal penalties—for the unlicensed practice of medicine.
  2. Standard of care. Practitioners using telemedicine will be held to the same standard of care that would apply to the provision of health care services in an in-person setting. To meet the standard of care, the practitioner must, at a minimum, establish a valid practitioner-patient relationship, provide quality health care service, obtain appropriate informed consent, document and maintain accurate patient medical records, and abide by the patient and medical record confidentiality standards required by law. Performing a proper initial consultation is a key aspect of establishing the practitioner-patient relationship; thus, an appropriate patient examination or evaluation is an important part of meeting the standard of care. Physicians must take the patient history and conduct a thorough evaluation of the patient’s medical condition prior to diagnosing the patient and prescribing the treatment plan.
  3. Establishing a valid practitioner-patient relationship. As the initial step, telemedicine laws usually require the practitioner to establish a valid practitioner-patient relationship, if one does not already exist. The legal requirements and process to establish this relationship vary by state. Generally, if a prior practitioner-patient relationship does not exist, it can be established via telemedicine using appropriate means. Some states may have restrictions as to the physical location of the patient for the patient evaluation or the telecommunication modalities that can be used in practicing telemedicine. However, filling out online questionnaires, telephone calls or text messages alone are not sufficient to establish the practitioner-patient relationship. Generally, acceptable telecommunication means use real-time streaming audio-visual technology or streaming audio coupled with store-and-forward technology.
  4. Reimbursement. Reimbursement for telemedicine services also varies widely amongst states. Accordingly, health care practitioners must review their respective payor contracts prior to billing for telemedicine services. For example, Texas has parity laws that require private payors to reimburse the same way as would be required in-person. On the other hand, Florida allows the payor and provider to negotiate the reimbursement rate for telemedicine services.

As you can see, a myriad of legal issues must be considered prior to engaging in telemedicine practice. If you have specific questions about setting up a telemedicine practice, the telemedicine laws in your state, contact ByrdAdatto, and consider attending The 2020 Medical Spa Show from January 31 – February 2 at the Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. The Medical Spa Show is the premier trade show for non-invasive medical aesthetics, and this year’s iteration features four tracks of curated education covering practically every topic a medical spa owner/operator would need to know about, as well as two tracks of sponsored education. Click here to register today.

Bala Mohan, JD, knew from a very young age that her choice of career would be related to science because she excelled in her biology and chemistry coursework. With a strong passion for genetics and the desire to find a cure for her mother—who was diagnosed with diabetes at an early age—Mohan obtained a Bachelor of Technology in Pharmaceutical Biotechnology. Having worked as a scientific researcher during her undergraduate studies, Mohan greatly values attention to detail and is a meticulous person. She then pursued a master’s in Entrepreneurial Biotechnology to gain knowledge about business and startups. This landed her a position with Cleveland Clinic Innovations, where she evaluated over 100 innovations and negotiated deals with potential investors. In this role, Mohan had the opportunity to interact with business and health care lawyers from multiple health care organizations, and she quickly realized that her real calling in life was to be a health care attorney. Subsequently Mohan obtained her JD and was able to pursue a career that combined all her interests—science, business, and law.

Tags:  ByrdAdatto  Med Spa Law  Med Spa Trends  The Medical Spa Show 2020 

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Is HIPAA the Patient Privacy Standard of Care?

Posted By Administration, Monday, September 16, 2019

patient record

By Courtney P. Cowan, JD, ByrdAdatto

Anyone working in the health care industry is intimately familiar with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996, better known as HIPAA. Generally, the purpose of HIPAA is to establish minimum federal standards for protecting the privacy of protected health information (PHI). While it is widely understood that health plans, health care clearinghouses, and health care providers are potentially subject to HIPAA regulation at the federal level for maintaining patient privacy, what may be less well known is how the patient privacy standard of care established under HIPAA applies to a private right of action.

Only the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (HHS) and the state attorneys general can enforce HIPAA violations. As a result, HIPAA lacks a private right of action. This means that an individual whose PHI has been used or disclosed by a health care provider in violation of HIPAA may not bring a civil claim against the provider under HIPAA. HIPAA also preempts state privacy laws that are contrary to HIPAA, the exception being when a state law is “more stringent” than HIPAA regarding privacy protection.

With data breaches becoming increasingly common, individuals have attempted to circumvent HIPAA’s lack of individual enforcement power by bringing negligence claims under state law based on violations of HIPAA. Using HIPAA as the patient privacy standard of care in negligence cases is beginning to look more like the equivalent of a private right of action under HIPAA, which HIPAA does not allow. This essentially means that a violation of the HIPAA rules may be used to establish that a health care provider has breached the duty of care owed to a patient under state law negligence claims relating to the improper disclosure of patient PHI. As a result, health care providers should understand that a HIPAA violation may result in a variety of state law claims.

Perhaps even more alarming than the attempted private right of action as a HIPAA workaround is the recent trend of state courts both finding in favor of the plaintiffs bringing the private rights of action, as well as finding that HIPAA violation claims can be brought at the state level. In California, for example, a medical center found itself at the center of a major data attack, with 4.5 million patients affected by the breach. After suspecting suspicious activity on its network, it contacted the FBI for help. Although it took close to nine months to notify the patients of the breach, HHS ultimately found that the medical center followed appropriate protocol and was satisfied with the health system’s post-breach efforts to improve security. However, despite the findings by HHS, a California state court found that the medical center failed to notify its patients of a data breach in a timely manner and awarded a settlement of $7.5 million in favor of patients who had filed the class-action suit.

The Arizona Court of Appeals also added itself to a number of courts across several states holding that HIPAA may define the standard of care for state law claims. The claim before the Arizona court alleged a privacy violation by a Costco pharmacist when the pharmacist verbally joked about a man’s erectile dysfunction medication to the man’s ex-wife. The long and short of it is, the Arizona Court of Appeals ruled that negligence claims using HIPAA as the patient privacy standard of care could be brought against Costco in Arizona courts.

While data breaches occur in virtually every state, health care providers in Texas have the added burden that the state has led the country in total hacking breaches reported to HIPAA for four of the past five years. In light of other rulings similar to those in California and Arizona, it is no surprise that Texas hospitals have recently been devoting more resources to cybersecurity. The added protection seems to be working—data shows that despite Texas often being in the top two states in terms of total hacking attempts over the past five years, it is further down the list when it comes to individual records actually breached.

Since it is becoming increasingly common for state courts to find HIPAA as the patient privacy standard of care for private rights of action, health care providers should re-evaluate, establish and enforce HIPAA compliance and training programs within their organizations. Otherwise, not safeguarding against HIPAA violations could result in substantial penalties against an organization.

AmSpa members receive a complimentary 20-minute Introductory Compliance Assessment with a ByrdAdatto attorney. Click here to learn how to join AmSpa today!

As the daughter of a periodontist, Courtney P. Cowan has been fascinated by the health care field since childhood. She often accompanied her father to his office, where she developed an appreciation for physicians and their respective practices. Having absolutely none of the dexterity that is required to be a surgeon, however, Cowan instead decided to pursue a degree in business while attending Baylor University. It wasn’t until she was required to take a business law course that she discovered her passion for the law. After graduating from Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law, Cowan serendipitously connected with ByrdAdatto and now assists clients by combining her business background with her enthusiasm for health care and the law.

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Medical Board of California Issues Warning for Hair Restoration Technicians

Posted By Administration, Friday, September 13, 2019

hair restoration

By Michael Byrd, JD, partner, ByrdAdatto

The Medical Board of California (MBC) has warned physicians against using unlicensed persons for hair transplant procedures in the summer issue of its newsletter. (The issue is available here, with the article appearing on page 12.) It states that the MBC has become aware of many physicians or clinics that are employing trained but unlicensed persons, referred to as medical assistants (MAs), to perform or assist with hair transplant procedures. The article gives the example of MAs creating holes or slits in the patient’s scalp using a needle, scalpel or other device as being prohibited. While it does not explicitly state that this is the case, its warning would seem to apply equally to harvesting follicles as it would to preparing the follicle implantation sites.

In California, MAs have a very limited scope of tasks they are permitted to perform. They are permitted to perform only “basic administrative, clerical and technical supportive services,” with several procedures specifically authorized in 16 CCR § 1366. With the exception of puncturing skin or vein for purposes of drawing blood, their other authorized tasks are non-invasive and include tasks such as trimming nails and ear lavage. Likewise, the MBC has stated that MAs may not inject fillers, nor may they fire lasers. The article warns that physicians who violate this restriction are aiding the unlicensed practice of medicine, which can carry penalties of fines or imprisonment. If you are employing MAs in your practice, you will want to carefully review what tasks you are assigning to them and ensure that the delegations are legally permitted.

To learn about legal and business best practices to keep your med spa compliant and profitable, attend one of AmSpa’s Medical Spa & Aesthetic Boot Camps and become the next med spa success story.

Michael S. Byrd is a partner at the law firm of ByrdAdatto, a national business and health care boutique law firm with offices in Dallas and Chicago. As the son of a doctor and entrepreneur, he has a personal connection to both business and medicine. He has blended these life experiences to become a leading advocate for doctors and dentists throughout the United States. He routinely lectures at continuing education seminars on the various business and legal issues that professionals face. Outside of health care, Michael has used these same skills to handle sensitive and complicated business matters for entrepreneurs, business owners, attorneys, CPAs, high-net-worth individuals and public figures. He has been named to Texas Rising Stars and Texas Super Lawyers, published by Thompson Reuters, for multiple years (2009-2019), was named a Top Rated Lawyer by the Dallas Morning News (2016), and has been recognized as a Best Lawyer in Dallas in health care by D Magazine (2013, 2016-2019).

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