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The health care industry continues to be reshaped by changes in federal law and technological developments. Health care companies are merging at greater rates and putting more attention towards corporate governance. Patients are starting to receive their first video consultations and turning to health care apps.
Many of these industry developments have legal implications that will directly influence health law practitioners this year. And you don't need a crystal ball to see what those issues will be. Bloomberg BNA's Health Law Reporter's 2016 outlook is good enough, outlining the major issues that will face lawyers and the industry in the year ahead. Here are the highlights.
1. Mergers: Privacy, Liability, Antitrust
Like law firms, hospitals are merging and affiliating at record rates. The trend picked up in 2015 and, according to Health Law Reporter, will "continue unabated" for the foreseeable future, driven in large part by the Affordable Care Act. On the privacy front, those mergers and affiliations raise issues about liability and information sharing under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. In terms of compliance, such mergers will continue to grapple with a myriad of state and federal antitrust regulations.
2. Tech and Telemedicine
The future is now! Those doctor-via-T.V. developments that we've been promised since at least 'The Jetsons' are finally here and telemedicine has made the list of top health issues for the first time ever. According to PWC, 2016 will mark the first year when "millions or American consumers will have their first video consults; be prescribed their first health apps and use their smartphones as diagnostic tools for the first time."
But, like practicing law across state lines, teledoctoring can raise complex state licensure and malpractice issues. The growth of health technology also brings a risk of potential data breaches and concomitant liability and litigation.
3. Corporate Governance
Internal compliance with financial, fraud, and other regulations is becoming a greater focus in the health industry. The new attention is motivated in part, according to Health Law Reporter, by "enforcement guidance that suggests individual directors and corporate officers may be held individually liable for compliance lapses."
These developments should be plenty to keep health law attorneys busy. All in all, the prognosis looks good for health lawyers in 2016.