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Chicago license defense lawyerIn October 2019, the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation announced a new requirement for prescribers renewing their Controlled Substances Registration in 2020: the completion of 3 hours of continuing education on safe opioid prescribing practices. The requirement applies to individuals that are prescribers under the Controlled Substances Act, which includes such licenses for dentists, optometrists, physicians, and veterinarians.

The change does not come as much of a surprise given the continuing spotlight on opioid addictions and overdoses turning into a nationwide epidemic. While most lawsuits have been filed against opioid manufacturers relating to their misleading marketing of these drugs, there is no doubt that prescribers of opioids, most specifically physician prescribers, have been viewed as playing a crucial role in this problem. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that in 2017 more than 70,000 people died from drug overdoses and of those deaths, nearly 68% involved a prescription or illicit opioid.

In a study conducted by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health examining about 350,000 prescriptions written for patients operated on by nearly 20,000 surgeons from 2011 to 2016 – the latest year for which data was available – researchers found that many doctors wrote prescriptions for doses of opioid tablets after surgeries, including operations that resulted in relatively little pain for patients. The highest-prescribing 5% of surgeons performing these less painful procedures prescribed 40 to 70 pills on average.

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Chicago medical license defense lawyerPatients have the right to keep their health records private and to know if their information is shared with others. Generally, a healthcare provider may only release an individual’s information with written consent, unless the information is critical for any treatment the patient will receive or if necessary to protect the public at large. In today’s technological world, the majority of patient data is stored in hospital or clinic systems and software. While certainly an efficient manner of securing information, technologies’ ever-changing state may also leave the information exposed to certain vulnerabilities, such as hacking.

Then how does one keep patient information secured from ever-present threats? Unfortunately, there is no single security measure that can be implemented as a sufficient defense. Rather, one must implement multiple defenses that serve as protective mechanisms to slow down any potential attack and make data access more difficult.

Typical defensive measures include firewall and antivirus solution protections, spam filters to block malicious emails and proper security awareness for staff to avoid phishing tactics, data encryption for all portable devices, and intrusion detection systems that monitor irregular network activity. Holders of confidential patient information are also advised to have extensive backup systems in place to ensure patient information is never lost.

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Chicago licensure attorneyElectronic health records (EHRs) make information related to patient-centered records available instantly and securely, containing patient medical history, diagnoses, medications, and treatment plans that greatly assist with overall diagnosis and treatment. However, missing, incomplete, or ineligible documents may hurt patient care and be used as evidence if a patient claims negligent treatment. In order to best protect yourself, here is advice on how to ensure properly maintained EHRs:

Understand How the Data is Tracked

Each time someone at the practice or hospital goes into a patient record, data tracks who signed into the EHR, the physical location of the computer, and the exact update made to the EHR. This means that any possible delay in patient treatment that a physician seeks to rectify by having the EHR reflect assistance in a timelier manner can be pulled in the digital “audit trail” to demonstrate patient record manipulation.

What Should Be Documented

EHRs should be kept up-to-date to ensure you can demonstrate appropriate, timely patient care was provided. Since the EHR is used as a communication tool amongst all practitioners involved in the patient’s care, you want to document patient medical records in the manner that you would want documented if assuming management of the care of a patient you did not know. Do not forget to include a diagnostic rationale, especially in circumstances where the medical record could suggest another course of action that was overlooked.

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b2ap3_thumbnail_shutterstock_1720841986.jpgHealth professionals will likely have to deal with difficult patients throughout their careers. They are the ones patients look to when experiencing high levels of stress or anxiety over the health issues facing their day to day lives. Such interactions can test the limits of health care professionals who have a duty to remain respectful and composed, so as to not compromise the integrity of their relationship with the patient. Then how should one deal with disrespectful patients?

The most obvious answer: remain calm. A patient acting disrespectfully is generally acting on feelings out of anxiety or a perceived lack of attention rather than attacking you personally. In such situations, it is important to keep control and address the patient in a way that can cool down the situation. Having a response ready for such moments can help diffuse the tension and set boundaries with the patient. For example, if a patient begins using explicit language toward a doctor or nurse, a simple response of, “let’s keep it professional,” can allow the health care professional to call out unacceptable behavior while moving on to the necessary task at hand. When facing unacceptable patient behavior, it helps to remain firm, refusing to engage in arguments or unnecessary apologies. Keep the interaction professional, and if necessary, pursue a follow-up conversation within a day of the interaction to foster a sense of open communication.

Another tactic is to always approach difficult patients with a level of empathy. Remember, you are dealing with patients during the most sensitive, anxiety-inducing moments of their lives. Making patients feel as if you are really trying to understand them and that you genuinely care can go a long way in helping an otherwise disrespectful patient calm down. If you feel the reason for ‘acting out’ extends beyond the stress that comes with health issues, you can suggest that the patient find a social worker or someone to talk to about their difficulties. Be sure that in taking such an approach, you handle the suggestion sensitively to make sure the patient does not feel abandoned.

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Chicago medical license defense lawyerMedical adherence is the act of taking medication as prescribed by a physician, which involves taking the proper dose, at the correct time, and for the recommended length of time. In order to achieve the full benefit of medications, patients need to adhere to prescribed treatment regimens. Patient non-adherence can result in adverse consequences to a patient’s health and result in additional medical costs and physician visits.

Why would a patient willingly not adhere to a medication treatment meant to provide help? It should not come as a surprise that the rising cost of prescription medications is a barrier for many patients. According to a Truven Health Analytics-NPR Health poll, 67% of patients do not take their medications because they cannot afford them. However, most physicians are surprised to learn that high costs account for only a small amount of patient adherence. Most patient non-adherence is intentional-based, resulting from such factors as a lack of understanding medication instructions or the reasons for taking certain medications, or confusion surrounding dosing schedules.

What impact does this have on a physician? A patient’s inability to follow a prescribed medication treatment should not create liability exposure for physicians. Unfortunately, that is not always the case. If a patient suffers harm due to their non-adherence to medication treatment, a physician’s efforts in ensuring adherence may be looked into by the Illinois Medical Board. Given that physicians are believed to have a better understanding of the ramifications of a patient’s failure to pursue treatment, physicians are under a greater burden to ensure adherence.

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