Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010: Will You Engage With Grace?

Will You Engage with Grace this Thanksgiving weekend? I hope so.

For the third year running I am participating in the Thanksgiving holiday Engage with Grace Blog Rally. A viral effort to communicate the importance of having a conversation with your family and loved ones around end of life care wishes. Would you prefer to die in a hospital, or at home? Can your family correctly describe how you would want to be treated in the case of a terminal illness or sudden traumatic accident? Does your family know where you keep your living will and advanced directive?

At the heart of Engage With Grace are five questions designed to get the conversation about end-of-life started. They’re not easy questions, but they are important. The key is having the conversation before it’s too late. Throughout the year I continue to promote the Engage with Grace effort (and so can you) by using the One Slide (see the slide below) at the end of my power point presentations.

So in the spirit of the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend, take time after your dinner, turn off the TV, and take time with your family and friends to engage in the Engage with Grace conversation. 

Thanks to Alexandra Drane, Paul Levy, and many other health care bloggers and professionals for continuing to inspire and share the Engage with Grace message. Learn more about Engage with Grace and the One Slide Project at

Some other resources you may want to read and explore:
  •  My 2008 Engage with Grace Blog post where I shared how Alexandra Drane's talk at the 2008 Health 2.0 Conference personally touched me because of my experience as a young 12 year old boy who lost his mother to cancer who was allowed to die at home surrounded by her husband and family.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

AMA Issues New Policy To Guide Physicians’ Use of Social Media

Today the American Medical Association announced that it has adopted and issued a new policy offering guidance to physicians on the use of social media. The new policy focuses on helping physicians to "maintain a positive online presence and preserve the integrity of the patient-physician relationship."

The press release indicates that the policy encourages physicians to:
  • Use privacy settings to safeguard personal information and content to the fullest extent possible on social networking sites.
  • Routinely monitor their own Internet presence to ensure that the personal and professional information on their own sites and content posted about them by others, is accurate and appropriate.
  • Maintain appropriate boundaries of the patient-physician relationship when interacting with patients online and ensure patient privacy and confidentiality is maintained.
  • Consider separating personal and professional content online.
  • Recognize that actions online and content posted can negatively affect their reputations among patients and colleagues, and may even have consequences for their medical careers.
UPDATE (11/10/10): Below is a copy of the complete AMA Policy on Professionalism in the Use of Social Media that Jane Sarasohn-Kahn obtained from Katherine Hatwell, AMA Media Relations.


The Internet has created the ability for medical students and physicians to communicate and share information quickly and to reach millions of people easily. Participating in social networking and other similar Internet opportunities can support physicians’ personal expression, enable individual physicians to have a professional presence online, foster collegiality and camaraderie within the profession, provide opportunity to widely disseminate public health messages and other health communication. Social networks, blogs, and other forms of communication online also create new challenges to the patient-physician relationship. Physicians should weigh a number of considerations when maintaining a presence online:

(a) Physicians should be cognizant of standards of patient privacy and confidentiality that must be maintained in all environments, including online, and must refrain from posting identifiable patient information online.

(b) When using the Internet for social networking, physicians should use privacy settings to safeguard personal information and content to the extent possible, but should realize that privacy settings are not absolute and that once on the Internet, content is likely there permanently. Thus, physicians should routinely monitor their own Internet presence to ensure that the personal and professional information on their own sites and, to the extent possible, content posted about them by others, is accurate and appropriate.

(c) If they interact with patients on the Internet, physicians must maintain appropriate boundaries of the patient-physician relationship in accordance with professional ethical guidelines just, as they would in any other context.

(d) To maintain appropriate professional boundaries physicians should consider separating personal and professional content online.

(e) When physicians see content posted by colleagues that appears unprofessional they have a responsibility to bring that content to the attention of the individual, so that he or she can remove it and/or take other appropriate actions. If the behavior significantly violates professional norms and the individual does not take appropriate action to resolve the situation, the physician should report the matter to appropriate authorities.

(f) Physicians must recognize that actions online and content posted may negatively affect their reputations among patients and colleagues, may have consequences for their medical careers (particularly for physicians-in-training and medical students), and can undermine public trust in the medical profession.

    NLRB: Employees Protected Concerted Activity Extends to Faceboook and Social Media

    Out of Connecticut comes an interesting case involving the use of social media in the workplace and its collision with employee protected concerted activity and employee freedom to associate without fear of employer retaliation under the National Labor Relations Act. The New York Times article, Company Accused of Firing Over Facebook Post, provides good background and details of the facts involved in the case.

    American Medical Response of Connecticut, Inc. and International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Local 443, Case No. 34-CA-12576 (NRLB - Region 34), involves a complaint filed against American Medical Response for firing an emergency medical technician for among other things violating the company's policy of negatively depicting the company on Facebook or other social media sites. American Medical Response had denied the labor board's allegations and claims that the employee was discharged on various other grounds. The complaint contains the full language of the employer social media policies involved in the matter.

    For those unfamiliar with the National Labor Relations Act, "protected concerted activity" is an employee right under the National Labor Relations Act that protects employees from employer retaliation for discussing working conditions. The National Labor Relations Act provides employees the right to associate together to improve working conditions, self organize, assist labor organizations and bargain collectively. The Act applies to activities by union and non-union employees.

    This will be a fascinating case to watch to see how the new world of social media communication, connection, and association will be applied in the context of existing employee rights under the National Labor Relations Act. Similar protections may also be provided to employees who report issues to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

    Employers who have implemented social media policies that restrict the rights of employees to utilize social media tools and website should review their policies to assess whether or not the policy unnecessarily restricts the rights of employees to associate and discuss their rights to discuss union related issues, wages, working conditions, and other rights protected by the Act.

    Friday, November 05, 2010

    OIG Issues Roadmap on Avoiding Medicare and Medicaid Fraud and Abuse for New Physicians

    The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (OIG) has issued a resource and educational guide for new physicians to help them better understand the key Federal fraud and abuse laws.

    As a health care attorney who often deals with physicians on fraud and abuse related matters, I applaud the OIG's effort to provide educational information to help raise the level of understanding on these issues and increase the transparency of these federal laws. This guide won't just be useful for "new" physician but for all physicians to gain a better understanding of the very complex legal/regulatory structure of fraud and abuse laws in the United States.

    The new OIG document is titled, "Roadmap for New Physicians: Avoiding Medicare and Medicaid Fraud and Abuse." The physician education roadmap document summarized the five main Federal fraud and abuse laws, including the False Claims Act, the Anti-Kickback Statute, the Stark Law, the Exclusion Statute, and the Civil Monetary Penalties Law. The roadmap document provides tips to physicians on how they should comply with these laws in their relationships with payers (like the Medicare and Medicaid programs), relationships with vendors (like drug, biologic, and medical device companies), and relationships with fellow providers (like hospitals, nursing homes, and physician colleagues).

    The roadmap guide was developed as a result of a survey conducted by OIG of medical school deans and designated institutional officials at institutions that sponsor residencies and fellowships to learn what types of instruction medical students, residents, and fellows receive on Medicare and Medicaid fraud, waste, and abuse. Nearly all respondents (92% of deans and 90% of designated institutional officials) reported they would like OIG to provide educational materials they can use. The complete survey, "Medicare and Medicaid Fraud and Abuse Training in Medical Education," was recently issued in October, 2010.

    You can view online or download a PDF version of the roadmap guidance materials. I plan to include a copy of this as a part of my hand out materials when I talk to physicians and other health care providers on fraud and abuse issues.