How Compliance could have saved $190 Million

USA Today reports that Johns Hopkins announced payment of $190 million to settle claims against a Johns Hopkins gynecologist who secretly recorded his patients.  Johns Hopkins had no knowledge of the recordings by the physician and denies liability.  However, Johns Hopkins is paying to settle claims.

Although the facts of this case are unusual, it gives us an opportunity to remind our healthcare clients:

Employers can be responsible for the actions of their employees even if they did not know about the employee’s actions.  

As a healthcare employer, you must be aware of the actions of your employees and take any corrective action necessary.  If you do not supervise your employees, you may be held responsible for any fine or settlement resulting from their behavior.

In the Johns Hopkins case, a co-worker reported the gynecologist for taking photos of his patients with a pen-like camera.  Following the co-worker’s report, the gynecologist was fired.

Notwithstanding the fact that Johns Hopkins fired the doctor, Johns Hopkins will still pay the large settlement.

How can healthcare providers avoid such situations?

Implementing a compliance plan is a good place to start.  Not a compliance plan that sits on the shelf collecting dust, but one that is functioning every day.  

A compliance plan requires that:

  1. all employees understand that compliance is part of everyone’s job duties;
  2. employees must notify the employer of any potential problems they observe;
  3. the employee will not be retaliated against if they report someone – even if the person is a doctor and/or someone senior to them; and
  4. employees will know what to do when they observe a problem.

A compliance plan won’t stop every problem. But making sure all employees are assisting in detecting and reporting problems will help healthcare employers to understand what is really going on and resolve problems as early as possible.

Lastly, in the Johns Hopkins case, after being fired, the gynecologist committed suicide.  Because the hospital had proper insurance, the hospital’s insurance company is paying the claim.

This is another reminder to all healthcare providers to check your insurance coverage to make sure you have coverage for your employee’s actions.  

Do you need help implementing or updating your compliance plan?  Do you need help assessing your insurance coverage?  We can help.  CLICK HERE.

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