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Home office cybersecurityMany professions were forced to abruptly shift to and adopt remote workspaces to be able to safely operate during the pandemic. Many physicians, real estate brokers, psychologists, and other licensed professionals who normally operated solely in person, have suddenly found themselves in a wholly foreign environment – likely their own spare room, interacting with clients and patients through a computer or phone. Certainly, many professionals have adapted to this method of practice over the last year, and some have even embraced it, or prefer it over pre-pandemic practices; however, a daunting oversight for many is the mere fact of cybersecurity. For many of these licensed professionals, client confidentiality and information protection, including HIPAA-aligned protocols, are legally required to operate. For a variety of reasons, including the necessity to suddenly shift to remote work, some professionals may not even realize that they are vulnerable to attack and that their patient/client information could be compromised at any moment.

For most of the licensed professionals listed above (and many who are not listed), patient/client confidentiality and privacy are an integral part of their practice. In addition to the requirement to follow HIPAA, it could also be the policy of the professional to contractually, and ethically, ensure confidentiality and privacy. Practicing from home greatly alters the ability to invoke the same standards that are possible in a private office space. A home office space may include visits from partners, children, roommates, or a variety of other possible visitors, and a closed door does not do much for privacy in the same way that a dedicated office space does. Licensed professionals must conscientiously think about the ways in which these conditions can affect the experience of their patient/client and agree upon a policy with those in their home office space to respect and follow client privacy policies.

Unless the home office was prepared in advance and made to mimic the kinds of resources available to the public office space, it is likely that the same types of cybersecurity programs are not in place. There have been reports of “smart” devices recording sound without the consent of the user, which could result in storage of private personal data, and criminals could access this information. Even though it is not the fault of the professional, it is ultimately their responsibility to protect their clientele through all routes possible.

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Chicago Realtor License Defense LawyerOn Thursday, November 19, 2020, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced that it planned to file a lawsuit against NAR, along with a proposed settlement that targeted NAR’s rules, policies, and practices, which the DOJ says are anticompetitive. The DOJ’s proposed settlement attempts to bring a level a transparency and competition to the real estate industry.

The proposed settlement posed by the DOJ would require NAR to change rules regarding broker commissions and service charges. NAR would have to change rules that currently enable MLS participants to not display or distribute MLS listings based on the compensation offered to the brokerage or agent, and rules that permit MLS participants to represent/suggest that their services are free to a client with no cost. The proposed settlement also calls for an end to limiting access to lock boxes to real estate brokers with respect to those properties listed on the MLS.

NAR agreed to comply with the proposed DOJ settlement agreement and will modify some of its rules and repeal others in order to resolve the antitrust lawsuit. NAR must comply with the settlement agreement within 45 days.

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Illinois Professional License Defense Attorney Wearable TechnologyArtificial Intelligence has come into everyone’s life in one way or another over the past decade. One of the fastest growing areas using this new technology is the healthcare industry. There have been many advancements over the years and new ways of using it coming out every day. These advancements have even come into light with physicians using data they receive from wearables like smartwatches.

Companies like Microsoft and Apple have entire teams dedicated to healthcare. The teams create software that give customers and physicians the ability to see all types of data, from a person’s heart rate to glucose levels, throughout the day. While these wearables generate a lot of information, physicians are in the precarious position of having to decide if, how, and when to use this data. Sometimes more info is not always better: studies have shown some wearables customers use the devices for the sole purpose of improving their health, and this creates an issue if the physician is not sure how to use the information to benefit the patients.

While wearables will continue to be an exciting field for medical advancement, it can also be a concern for doctors. Most of these wearables are not FDA approved, or worse there are concerns about the confidentiality of patient information (Violations of State and Federal Confidentiality Statutes). Doctors not only have to worry about how to use the information, but they also have to worry about the legal risk of their use.

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Chicago Artificial Intelligence and Surgery LawyersArtificial Intelligence (AI) has come into everyone’s life in one way or another over the past decade. One of the most significant growth areas using this new technology is the healthcare industry. There have been many advancements over the years, and new ways of using it come up every day. These advancements even arrive on the surgical side of a physician’s practice

Robots empowered with AI have been used to assist surgeons in performing intricate surgeries. These robots limit the amount of human error, which can cause adverse outcomes for the patient. Since robots can be used to get into smaller areas than a surgeon’s hands are able, robots also make the surgery less invasive. Techniques like these allow for faster post-operative recovery and higher patient satisfaction. While robots, at least in the near future, are not going to take over and replace a surgeon’s knowledge and judgment, they will continue to expand the field.

One hurdle to the growth of AI in surgery is patient and physician trust in machines and AI. As it becomes more and more commonplace to see certain operations being assisted by a computer, there will come the point where the type of surgery may be too much for the patient/surgeon to trust the machine.

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Illinois Artificial Intelligence and Medicine AttorneysOver the past decade, artificial intelligence (“AI”) has entered everyone’s life in one way or another. The healthcare industry is one of the most significant growth areas for this technology. There have been many advancements over the years, and new ways of using it arrive every day. The advancements, in large part, enter the medicine side of a physician’s practice.

One area of advancement with AI in medicine is diagnostics. Computers have been able to use data from around the world to diagnose patients so the treating physician can find the root of the problem as quickly as possible.

Therapy has also made advancements due to AI. Some including patients gaining the ability to use electronic therapy dogs or even software that allows a cost-effective way to speak about their problems.

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Chicago Medical Negligence Defense LawyersPatient-centric care is what our healthcare system has moved towards, but when is that too far? What happens when patients start to tell doctors how they want their treatment plan to look? As patients gain more and more access to information, they may become a more informed “customer”; this can be both good and bad. Patients can have a better understanding of what their issue is, but, their informal knowledge does not replace a medical/osteopathic degree.

One of the ways patients are starting to have more control over the system is through patient satisfaction surveys. Patients now have the ability to “rate” the care they received. While the idea behind this patient satisfaction surveys helps the hospitals see potential areas of concern, the survey itself can also cause problems. When administrations spend too much time looking at this type of data, it can create problems that don’t actually exist. Just like looking up a Google review, one must take the information with skepticism. Most people who are happy (or at least satisfied) with their experience do not take the time to fill out the surveys. Rather, the surveys are completed by patients upset about something (whether right or wrong). This type of survey can cause issues for physicians.

While most hospitals and administrations have started to guard against misuse of patient satisfaction surveys, sometimes they don’t mitigate the impact on doctors. If the hospital tells doctors how to treat patients by way of strict review of the patient satisfaction surveys, doctors may feel like they lost their independent judgment. That loss of judgment can result in the overprescribing of opioids or running a test that isn't needed. This could ultimately cause a problem with the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, and your license. If a problem does arise, Williams & Nickl is here to help you get through that process and back on the right track. Our firm focuses on professional license defense to ensure the Medical Board does not violate your rights, and you have a chance to move on from your issue.

Chicago Defense Attorney for Doctors and NursesPatient-centric care is what our healthcare system has moved towards, but when is that too far? What happens when patients start to tell physicians how they want their treatment plan to look? As patients gain more and more access to information, they will be a more informed "customer"; this can be both good and bad. Patients can have a better understanding of what their issue is, but, as the common saying goes, your Google search does not replace a medical/osteopathic degree.

One way a patient can start to dictate how they are treated is by requesting specific medication. Pharmaceutical manufacturers plaster TV, print and internet sites with drug advertising with the urgent request “Ask your doctor about it!” Drug companies would argue that informative ads empower the consumer patient to obtain the medication they want, but physicians would counter that the consumer is not educated enough to make such a decision. Studies have shown that patients are more likely to get their medication of choice when they request it. This is true not only for the drug brand but also the drug type. Speculation occurs, as it is unclear whether the physician simply wants to pacify the inquisitive patient or if they truly believe the medication is the most appropriate treatment.

While listening to your patients and adhering to their requests can be harmless, patients dictating their medications can cause a lot of issues, including the overprescribing of opioids. This could ultimately cause a problem with the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, and your license. Many have stated that the best practices are to work with your patient to make the decision together. Let your patient know how you came to your decision and do not be afraid to say NO, especially when it comes to controlled substances. If a problem does arise, Williams & Nickl is here to help you get through that process and back on the right track. Our firm focuses on professional license defense to ensure the Medical Board does not trample your rights, and you have a chance to move on from your past issue.

Chicago Cannabis Defense LawyerIn January of 2020, Illinois became the latest state to legalize recreational cannabis. The question for physicians is now ‘may I use cannabis without fear of being fired from my job?’ The quick answer is, of course, it depends. The longer answer is: it depends on where you work and when you’re using it.

First, employers can stop you from possessing and using cannabis at work. They still have the ability to discipline you for the possession of cannabis on company property and will be able to test you for the drug under reasonable suspicion. The problem is that cannabis can remain in your system for weeks, and there is no current test to determine if you are impaired.

Second, Illinois has a nondiscrimination law that bars employers from discriminating against employees for legal activities done outside of work hours. We assume that because cannabis is legal that employers cannot prevent you from using it outside of work, but if some is impaired when reporting to work, how would an employer test for it?

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Chicago Doctor and Nurse LawyerOn March 20, 2020 Governor Pritzker issued Executive Order 2020-10 (“Order”) which required all residents of Illinois to shelter in place. The Order was extended through April 30, 2020. The Order exempted all healthcare workers for the obvious reason that healthcare is a critical concern in the current global pandemic. The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (“IDFPR”) has recently posted on its website bulletins related to the healthcare industry, a number of which are entitled “Guidance.” The bulletins concern the temporary relicensing of retired and out-of-state healthcare non-licensed practitioners. None of these bulletins deal with ethical issues in providing healthcare services in a COVID-19 environment.

Specifically, there does not seem to be real guidance for the #1 question Williams and Nickl receives from clients: Must a doctor, PA or nurse remain working in a hospital or clinical setting in which they objectively believe the practice environment is a danger to themselves or their families? The answer is NO!

Even though politicians and science experts resort more and more to the “war” analogy, an Illinois healthcare worker cannot be charged with desertion. As an Illinois healthcare licensee, you are not bound by the Uniform Code of Military Justice to sacrifice your life or the health of your family. But all healthcare professions have an affirmative duty to avoid patient abandonment. In short, no doctor, nurse or PA can quit on the spur of the moment. All healthcare practitioners are required to arrange, in one form or another, for the continuity of patient care. What constitutes reasonable notice and arrangement for continuity of care varies widely by individual circumstances.

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Chicago Pharmacist LawyerAs of March 30, 2020, the DEA will allow oral prescriptions of schedule II controlled substances when:

  • they are needed for the proper treatment of a patient;
  • there are no appropriate treatment options; and,
  • when submitting an electronic or paper prescription to the pharmacy prior to dispensing the substance is not possible.

Physicians and other prescribers can make the determination to phone in the emergency schedule II script after reviewing the circumstances for each patient, and that review must include the above criteria. Clearly, not every controlled II prescription will be prescribed by phone.

Pharmacists must be aware of qualifications that apply before you can dispense that phone script. First, oral prescriptions are limited to only the adequate amount the patient needs right away. Schedule II prescriptions that go past this period are still subject to the requirement for paper or electronic submission. Second, pharmacists must put the script into writing ASAP, and must cover all of the required fields besides the prescriber’s signature. 

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