Legal Considerations for the Home Office
Many healthcare professionals treat patients or conduct other business operations from their homes. Find out how to balance the convenience with the legal risks.
Owners of small healthcare practices often use their homes as a business location to reduce expenses and bring convenience and stability to their lives. Nonetheless, having a home office or listing your personal address as the primary business address brings risks. We walk you through some primary considerations and propose action steps to protect your business and home.
Do You Want Your Home Address To Be Accessible to Patients and the Public?
Your residential address may become easy-to-access information if you have a home office. For example, starting a new business requires various filings with the state that include a principal business and mailing address. If you list your residence on this paperwork, your home address will become public information that’s searchable in your state’s online business directory.
Your address may also be readily accessible to patients if you use your residence as the billing address for insurance purposes. For instance, if a superbill lists your home office as the billing location, the address becomes part of your patients’ records.
To avoid this exposure, consider obtaining a virtual office address or an alternate business address to associate with your state filings and insurance contracts.
Do Your Mandated HIPAA Policies and Procedures Cover Your Home Office?
If you recently started working from home, you need to update (or create) HIPAA policies to account for the location change. HIPAA’s privacy and security rules require covered entities to maintain safeguards at their offices. Therefore, your HIPAA policies and procedures should address how protected health information might be intercepted or breached in your residence. The same rigorous standards apply whether you operate in a commercial office setting or a home office.
Just because you work at home does not mean that you have eliminated the chances of a PHI breach. Your data protection settings should be as strong as at any commercial location, meaning you should use encryption, password protection, duo-authentication, and protected Wifi.
Your HIPAA policies and procedures should clarify that you work in a home office and address the risks associated with at-home work. For instance, you should clarify whether you have a home security system and other physical protections. Your HIPAA policies should also consider whether other household members have access to your computer or may overhear patient voicemails.
Does Your Commercial General Business Insurance Cover At-Home Visits?
Your practice likely has commercial general liability (CGL) insurance to cover things that occur in s day-to-day operations but do not relate to patient care. For example, you’d call your commercial general liability carrier if someone suffered an injury or property was damaged.
If you operate your practice out of the home, you must verify that your insurance covers patient visits to that location. Check your policy for explicit mentions of at-home care. If you can’t find them, you should amend your policy or find a new carrier that will cover liability in a home office. For clarification on the various types of insurance coverage that healthcare practices need, we suggest that you read this blog.
What Concerns Arise From Visiting Patients’ Homes?
Perhaps you have a mobile practice and enter patients’ homes while delivering services. Many patients love the convenience, and for some, it provides critical access to care.
Again, you should verify that your CGL insurance carrier covers mobile services in the patient’s home. You should also set clear expectations and establish policies that account for various risks involved with home visits.
For example, what if the home does not have enough space to deliver your services or lacks privacy? In such situations, you risk falling below the standard of care necessary to deliver effective (and perhaps ethical) treatment.
Further, what if you begin to feel unsafe during a home visit? You might find yourself balancing your responsibilities to the patient with self-protection.
Do not wait for these questions to arise on the site. Instead, we suggest addressing these scenarios in your intake forms and discussing them with the patient during your first contact. Set appropriate boundaries and clarify expectations. Then, require patients to formally acknowledge your practice policies.
Get Legal Support For Your Practice
Perhaps you need to create policies and procedures for home office use. Or maybe you want to amend the address your practice has on file with the state. If this sounds like you, we suggest working with an experienced healthcare attorney.
The attorneys at Jackson LLP want to help you oversee a successful and secure practice or business. If you operate in one of the states where we have licensed attorneys, book a free consultation to determine if we fit your needs.
This blog is made for educational purposes and is not intended to be specific legal advice to any particular person. It does not create an attorney-client relationship between our firm and the reader. It should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction.