Avoiding Malpractice Tips

Ready or Not, Here I Come

May 17, 2024 | Avoiding Malpractice Tips

Ready or Not, Here I Come

First, we want to recognize that the behavioral health and social work professions are genuinely noble and founded on service, integrity, and clinical expertise. Although the professions can be stressful and dangerous, the nation is grateful for what you do—AND SO ARE WE! Thank You!

Do you remember when we were children playing hide-and-seek? After the countdown, giving your friends time to hide, you would yell, “Ready or not, here I come!”

Well, you are playing that game now.  Many of you, classified as a small business providing a service, will likely be hit by an unforeseen emergency. Ready or not, here it comes!  Or an event you thought about but never prepared for.

Small businesses, which include social work and behavioral health practices, employ over 60 million people and comprise over 30 million business entities in the U.S., according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.  The Small Business Administration defines small businesses as having under 500 employees.  The U.S. Department of Labor forecasts that the 10-year average growth rate of workers in social workers and behavioral health occupations will grow by over 5% annually.

Let’s refer to a small business preparedness article published in Rough Notes (April 2024, (insurance publication) by Andrea Davis, p.- 35 & 36).   She advocates a “four-pronged approach” in your business or practice continuity plan in the event of a crisis.  Davis lists four specific preparedness categories that impact your business and to include in your business or practice continuity plan:

1. Determine risks

These are external and internal factors.  External factors may include changing state licensing regulations, legal, political, economic, HIPAA compliance, and technological factors.  Some internal factors may include a duty to care for clients and employees, employee or contractor issues, licensing status, documentation, records storage, compliance, client scheduling, substitution back-filling with a referral network, and insurance coverages.  Prioritize your risks, list them, and create tactics and strategies to manage them along with resource allocation, including your time and money.

2. Establish continuity of operations.

List critical functions and prioritize the tasks required to continue the practice operations.  Along with this effort, define essential assets and employees needed during the crisis.  Create a segmented timeline that illustrates the tasks and obstacles you anticipate will occur during weeks 1, 2, and so on, along with prescribed action plans to deal with them if they arise.  Create flexibility for the substitutes to handle unforeseen challenges.

Ensure you clearly outline third-party vendors’ responsibilities and monitoring procedures.  And lay out your insurance policies and their respective options to exercise, including notice requirements.  Reaction time to subpoena records requests is particularly important since these have specific due dates with relatively short periods to comply.

3. Understand available resources

Create your network of people and businesses and a list of their respective capabilities to help you through the transition and crisis. This includes state and local entities, such as governmental and professional chapter memberships, that can assist you in your time of need.

4. Communicate and practice plans.

Sharing your plans with your business partners, employees, contractors, and referral partners is imperative.  Start with the inner orbit of touchpoints and work your way out to the more remote relationships.

Let’s look at some specifics regarding your practice contingency planning.  Many items need immediate attention if you are afflicted with an acute illness or death, which precludes you from working.  Both events will immediately impact your practice.  Here are some examples of items that need immediate attention for your substitute to manage:

  • Appointment book and calendar
  • Client/patient list
  • Employer list with contacts, and if I work as a contractor
  • Complete contact list, names, telephone numbers, addresses, email addresses
  • Insurance policies (hospitalization, medical, life, disability, liability, and others)
  • Office keys, storage lockers, offsite storage, digital storage
  • User IDs, passwords, and voicemail access and codes
  • Bank, credit card, debit card information, and the ability to spend money to manage the practice or clean up problems.

Ready or not, be prepared!

Avoiding Malpractice Tips

Monthly advice and information to help you manage risk. See list of past articles.

Resources and References

  • Are You Considering Teletherapy? Check out what you need to know BEFORE You start.
  • Have a question about your policy or need specific information, you can speak with a knowledgeable, licensed insurance representative by calling 888-278-0038.

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