Protect front line medical professionals from liability threats

Many of the health care heroes and facilities that navigated the uncertainties of COVID-19 since early 2020 now face the possibility of being targeted by personal injury attorneys unless legislation is passed at the federal level.

To address this threat, Representatives Lou Correa (D-CA) and Michael Burgess, MD (R-TX) recently introduced H.R. 3021, the Coronavirus Provider Protection Act, to provide uniform liability protections to medical professionals and facilities on the front lines of the pandemic

If enacted, this bill would protect frontline medical professionals and facilities from a variety of claims, including workforce shortages, inadequate personal protective equipment, and delays in nonessential care resulting from government and public health guidance.

Passage of H.R. 3021 — a bill with bipartisan support — will also strengthen executive orders and legislation implemented by a number of states to provide protections from unwarranted medical liability lawsuits. Protect Patients Now strongly supports this legislation and is working tirelessly to pass it into law.

You can click here to remind your Representative that the threats posed by liability lawsuits remain and urge them to co-sponsor H.R. 3021 to provide critical federal liability protections to our frontline medical professionals and facilities.

Downsides of digital care 

Attempts to expand telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic have created a patchwork of policies that may create new avenues for liability lawsuits due to uncertainties about where patients or providers were located while care was being provided.

Both at the federal and state level, actions taken to expand telehealth included passing laws, updating regulations, issuing waivers and executive and agency orders. But in many cases, overlapping and contradictory actions made it difficult for providers to understand whether or not they complied with legislative or regulatory requirements.

An opinion piece in Medical Economics shared a case study in how adjacent Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island regulated telehealth differently — creating a problem for patients and providers who may have decamped temporarily due to COVID-19.

“The different approaches among states, coupled with uncertainty regarding licensure rules applicable to telehealth encounters, almost certainly resulted in cases of non-compliance with various emergency orders, waivers, processes, and legislation,” wrote Robinson & Cole LLP attorneys Conor Duffy and Seth Orkand.

If not addressed, these approaches can become liability threats, and “even providers who acted in good faith may be subject to such reviews and to heightened scrutiny of their telehealth activities,” Duffy and Orkand conclude.

To read more about how digital and telehealth programs can improve compliance and access to patient care post-pandemic, click here.

Alabama Governor revives emergency health measures

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey took steps earlier this month to revive a limited number of emergency health measures to help its health care systems cope with a surge in COVID-19 cases.

This “limited and narrowly-focused” state of emergency proclamation intends to help ease the burden on health care providers by allowing expanded capacity in health care facilities, increased authority for frontline health care personnel and easier shipment of emergency equipment and supplies.

This includes expanding the scope of practice of those providing care under the supervision of a physician, expedited licenses for out-of-state practitioners to provide care in Alabama, and implementing alternative standards of care when the current standards cannot be adhered to as a result of COVID-19.

“Governor Ivey’s action today will help alleviate medical staffing shortages due to the sharp increase in COVID hospitalizations and Alabamians will have greater access to health care as a result,” said Medical Association President Dr. Aruna Arora.

For more information on Alabama’s emergency health care actions, click here.