Healthcare changes yield new business for health lawyers
Law firms appearing on Modern Healthcare’s annual ranking of the largest healthcare law firms are awash with new business opportunities as the healthcare industry continues to transform, firm leaders say.
“The healthcare world is not getting simpler,” said Stephen Bernstein, global head of the health industry practice group of McDermott Will & Emery. The Chicagobased firm finished ninth on the list, employing 152 lawyers in 2014 who spent at least half of their time practicing health law, up from 148 the previous year.
Cost reduction is a priority for providers now more than ever, and those efforts include moves to telehealth, Bernstein said. Providers need the guidance of attorneys to ensure that telehealth services are delivered securely and within existing rules. One issue centers on who delivers telehealth services, Bernstein said. Telehealth travels across state lines, raising questions about which state laws and professional licensures apply. Some radiologists, for example, are obtaining licenses in multiple states, he said. New telehealth projects are coming to McDermott at the rate of a couple a week, he said.
McDermott also is seeing growth in other health information technology businesses, Bernstein said. The shift to the ICD-10 coding system has forced providers to implement new electronic health records, and the changeovers are gigantic, he said. McDermott’s health lawyers assess the new technol- ogy and negotiate contracts between providers and vendors that state when the new ICD-10 systems must be up and running, he said.
Care coordination is another piece of health IT that is growing, said Richard Cowart, chairman of the health law group at Nashville-based Baker Donelson Bearman Caldwell & Berkowitz, which placed fifth on the list. Cowart added that Nashville is seeing a health IT entrepreneurial boom.
Changes in the industry have led to a reduction of clients in other areas of healthcare though. Work with independent physicians has decreased, said W. Russell Welch, chairman and CEO of Polsinelli, the top-ranked firm on this year’s list. More physicians are joining groups and becoming employees of hospital systems, he said.