Key technology & environmental trends for the hospital of the future

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Here are key trends to keep in mind for the hospital of the future.

Technology:

Regulations around the use of technology are hard pressed to keep pace with the rate of tech advancement in the healthcare industry.

Telemedicine is just one example. With telemedicine, hospitals can deliver care across state lines, often reaching high-risk, but underserved, populations. However, a physician’s license remains restricted to the state in which their home facility (e.g., hospital) is located and they must have a license to practice in the state in which the telemedicine patient is physically located. Practicing outside of the geographical limits of a license can expose physicians and hospitals to liability risks.

Physicians are also constrained by the laws of the state of their license, including rules and regulations regarding standard of care, record keeping, privacy, and adverse event reporting. Failure to comply with these additional requirements exposes physicians and hospitals to the same liability issues associated with practicing outside the geographic limits of a license.

Medical wearable technology is also playing an increasingly significant role in the hospital of the future. Its impact is already being seen today as providers use this technology to obtain real-time information about their patients and improving diagnoses and treatments. Patients, on the other hand, recognize that wearables enable them to check their own conditions, eliminating the need for repeated physician office visits. All medical wearable devices are regulated by the FDA.

There are four important insurance coverage risks hospitals should consider when using wearable devices:
• Patient privacy: In many cases, providers will access wearables-driven patient data on their personal mobile device which many not be HIPAA compliant. If that information is lost, stolen or exposed, hospitals may be found liable.
• Cyber breach: Hospitals must also put the appropriate safeguards in place to ensure the patient data wirelessly transmitted from wearable devices is protected from malware and virus attacks, which could expose their entire network if the data is accessed on a network-linked computer.
• Bodily injury: There are a variety of metals and synthetic fabrics used in the construction of medical devices which could cause a reaction when it comes in contact with a patient’s skin. Burns from prolonged usage and electrical shocks stemming from excessive leakage currents pose additional concerns. Providers should clearly go over instructions for how to use a wearable device with every patient prior to use and of course obtain and document their informed consent.
• Technology errors: No technology is perfect and wearables are not a substitute for a doctor’s care. When using wearables, there is a risk of the software failing or delivering incorrect data that could lead a physician to make the wrong diagnosis or patient care decision. Providers can be held liable for malpractice in the event of a technology failure.

Hospitals using advanced technology in the delivery of patient care should conduct a careful examination of professional liability issues, including contract protections, practitioner credential requirements, technology safeguards, network security, practice standards, and insurance coverage.

Chubb offers clients a comprehensive portfolio of tailored insurance products to manage risks, enabling providers to fulfill their primary patient care missions.

Environmental Risks

As hospitals look to the future, many are pursuing ambulatory care centers to reach more patients in a cost-effective manner. However, the required construction and/or renovation of existing facilities to delivery ambulatory care to an outpatient population exposes providers to often overlooked environmental risks, particularly as it relates to the dizzying array of federal, state and local regulations. Failure to comply with these regulations could result in significant costs, including those associated with lawsuits, emergency response, remediation, decontamination and business interruption.

Before launching a new ambulatory care construction or renovation project, providers should consult with medical professionals, infectious disease specialists, plant and facilities managers, design professionals, and the construction team to identify and mitigate environmental exposures. During construction, providers should test for contaminants including mold and legionella pneumophila; use HEPA filters; establish “clean rooms” where workers can put on and safely dispose of protective clothing, masks and cloth boots; and pay special attention to how fuel used for construction equipment and vehicles is stored and transported.

In terms of insurance, commercial general liability policies typically exclude traditional, recognized pollution events, as well as many other environmental exposures including mold, legionella and facility-borne illnesses. As a result, specialized environmental insurance policies should be purchased to offer the most complete protection. Fortunately, healthcare organizations can buy a broad range of coverages in a single policy to help ensure that pollution exposures are insured, while reducing potential coverage gaps.

The material presented in this interview is not intended to provide legal or other expert advice as to any of the subjects mentioned, but rather is provided for general information only. You should consult knowledgeable legal counsel or other knowledgeable experts as to any legal or technical questions you may have.

The views, opinions and positions expressed within these guest posts are those of the author alone and do not represent those of Becker's Hospital Review/Becker's Healthcare. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them.

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