Healthcare changes yield new busi­ness for health lawyers

Modern Healthcare - - BY THE NUMBERS - By Michael San­dler

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.

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