“A Moving Target”: Tackling Liability Associated with the Opioid Epidemic
September 13, 2017 | Strategic Insights for Health System
The opioid epidemic is a national emergency, and “as with all national emergencies, the response is a moving target," said Anne Huben-Kearney, RN, BSN, MPA, CPHQ, CPHRM, CPPS, assistant vice president, Healthcare and Psychiatry Risk Management, AWAC Services, during a September 7, 2017, American Society for Healthcare Risk Management webinar. Huben-Kearney and co-presenter Moira Wertheimer, Esq., RN, CPHRM, FASHRM, assistant vice president, Healthcare and Psychiatry Risk Management, AWAC Services, emphasized that applicable laws, regulations, and standards, along with other liability risks, continue to evolve, and risk managers need to keep pace. Legitimate purposes for prescriptions of controlled substances are outlined in federal regulations. However, individuals may seek controlled substances for nonlegitimate purposes, by means such as “prescriber shopping," theft, forgery, nonlegitimate prescribing, and use of others' medications. In the emergency department, this raises risks related to the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act. Even when providers suspect that patients are seeking opioids for nonlegitimate uses, providers must still perform a medical screening examination and, if an emergency medical condition exists, stabilizing treatment within the organization's capability and capacity. When it comes to drug diversion by healthcare providers, several aspects of the response, such as reporting to law enforcement, are dictated by state laws.