It’s been quite a year for compliance in the health care industry, thanks to mandates from the New York state governor (first Cuomo, then Hochul) and broader trends relating to technology, culture, public health and patient advocacy. From digital data to medical marijuana, and from pandemic responses to popular culture, the Harris Beach health care blog recaps the seven most relevant, industry-rocking issues in 2021 as guidance for a strong start in 2022.

Vaccine mandates. Heard of ‘em? The issue of vaccine mandates for health care workers continues to loom large, now in the context of the recent spike in COVID cases, quarantine protocols, and dire staffing shortages. Disruption within the healthcare industry increased sharply this year, as health care employers scrambled to cover staff shortages, cancel or postpone elective surgeries, reduce operating room hours, cut back hours for non-essential programs and redeploy staff to cover gaps in critical services. They also had to figure out how to enforce vaccine mandates, verify proof of vaccination, and deal with staff who did not receive the vaccine. As this mandate crosses over to the private sector, we continue to monitor relevant issues.

Immigration solutions. With staffing stretched thin, health care organizations are dealing with glaring deficiencies in operational needs. Our recent post reviewed several ways to address the shortage by increasing efforts to recruit health care workers from around the globe. This resource may serve you well in 2022. Check out the ABCs of updates for health care immigration options.

Clinical trials. The pandemic has thrown a spotlight on clinical trials, reminding our industry how crucial they are to advances in medicine, science and technology. While studies typically have more planning and execution time than COVID-19 vaccine investigations, each clinical trial must adhere to the highest standards of legal and ethical compliance from the start. Issues to navigate include patient protocol and informed consent, relations with Institutional Review Boards (IRBs), and a heightened commitment to cybersecurity and protecting patient information. This is especially true as virtual clinical trial opportunities present themselves, following the trend of telehealth (see bullet below). Our Health Care Industry Team is gathering resources to support clinical trial infrastructure even more in 2022.

Telehealth. The concept of telehealth – patients interacting virtually with providers and organizations — is growing broader and deeper than ever. Telehealth and telemedicine now include phone, text or email exchanges, online portals, photo sharing, remote monitoring systems, and even implanted devices like insulin pumps, oximeters or pacemakers. As more patient data flies through the cloud, measures are essential to ensure encryption of protected health information (PHI), insurance information, and the discretion expected in a medical setting. Plus, providers who may be treating patients across state laws must abide by a patchwork of state and local mandates. Stay tuned for how telehealth will evolve next year.

No Surprises. Don’t say we didn’t warn you. The federal No Surprises Act (NSA) takes effect on January 1, 2022. Our recent Legal Alert reviewed how the NSA will integrate with the existing New York Surprise Bill law – for example, expanding the scope of billing for emergency and post-ED inpatient services to those rendered by all providers, not just physicians. We continue to track this federal mandate, distilling what health care providers in New York state need to know.

Mental hygiene matters and guardianship. The #FreeBritney movement drew overwhelming attention to the issues of mental hygiene matters and guardianship for individuals who aren’t in a position to make decisions themselves. What should health care providers know now that guardianship is a buzzword? Our blog post provides context and a link to a webinar – one of many resources in our digital library.

Medical marijuana. Legislation allowing for managed home growth of medical cannabis — as opposed to buying from licensed dispensaries — addresses issues of accessibility, equity, and compliance with treatment regimens rather than drug abuse. The guidance is a positive sign regarding the Cannabis Control Board’s focus on medical marijuana as a critical component of managed use in New York state. 

On behalf of our editorial board, we wish you, your colleagues, and your loved ones health and happiness in the new year.