What the Crackdown on Painkiller Prescribing Means for HR

Lena J. Weiner, April 10, 2017

When hospitals and health systems are implicated in legal cases, it can hurt reputations, morale, and the bottom line. Here's what HR can do to minimize the damage.

Federal and state governments are ramping up enforcement around the over-prescription of painkillers and other scheduled medications, and doctors and pharmacists are at risk for being caught in the government's net, warns one attorney.

"It's very hard for medical professionals and those in upper management, such as hospital CFOs, CEOs, and CMOs, to see themselves as criminals," says Jack Sharman, partner at Lightfoot, Franklin, and White, a law firm headquartered in Birmingham, AL.

"This difficulty to perceive what someone else might think merits a criminal investigation impedes judgement and slows internal response."

While physicians might not see themselves as criminals for managing patients' pain or making sure they had enough pills to get through a holiday, it's not hard for others to come to that conclusion, says Sharman.

"I always remind people that a prosecutor, investigator, or regulator can view you any way they wish, and it has nothing to do with your credentials or how many people you've helped," he says.

It often falls on HR to make sure someone is keeping an eye on compliance, while staying aware of how things might look to those outside the hospital.

Lena J. Weiner

Lena J. Weiner is an associate editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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