Understand the rights of a practice before government knocks at the door

April 6, 2008

Alan E. Reider, MPH, JD, Arent Fox LLP, explained the rights of staff, physicians, and patients when the government comes knocking on the door in a presentation, "Caution and cooperation: Your rights and responsibilities in a government investigation" at the general session of the American Society of Ophthalmic Administrators.

Alan E. Reider, MPH, JD, Arent Fox LLP, explained the rights of staff, physicians, and patientswhen the government comes knocking on the door in a presentation, "Caution and cooperation:Your rights and responsibilities in a government investigation" at the general session of theAmerican Society of Ophthalmic Administrators.

Allison Shuren, MSN, MPP, Arent Fox LLP, began the presentation with examples of cases that sheand Reider had encountered. Cases included altering patient records, performing unnecessarysurgery, and upcoding evaluation and management services. Most of these resulted in either thepractices being destroyed or the practice paying an expensive settlement.

Rights of individuals in a practice, presented by Reider, could be summed up with one simplepiece of advice. Physicians, staff, and patients never have to talk to the government when theycome to a practice but they will have to speak in a court of law when subpoenaed-unless theyplead the Fifth Amendment, he said.

Another concern discussed was search warrants. When the government comes to a practice with asearch warrant, it has the right to search and take the documents listed on the warrant, hecontinued.

"This is a situation that you never want to find yourself in, but sadly it does happen," Reidersaid. "What you need to know is to be very respectful and do not get in the way. That could be[considered an] obstruction of justice."