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Archive for October, 2012

Recent Study Finds Physician Burnout Prevalent; Impacts Malpractice and Patient Care

Posted on: October 29th, 2012

By: Mary Ellen Lighthiser

A recent New York Times article discussed a troubling study that indicates a high number of physicians are experiencing burnout.  The recent study described burnout as “emotional exhaustion, detachment and a low sense of accomplishment.”  The study suggests that more than half of doctors practicing a specialty with “front-line access to care,” such as family medicine, emergency medicine, and general internal medicine, have experienced burnout.  Such high rates of physician burnout may have substantial implications for our healthcare system.  As the article suggests, doctors suffering from burnout are more prone to errors, less empathetic and more likely to treat patients like diagnoses or objects. They are also more likely to quit practicing altogether, a trend that has serious repercussions in a system already facing a severe doctor shortage as it attempts to expand coverage to 30 million or more currently uninsured Americans.

The prevalence of physician burnout is seemingly tied to the increasing limitations and requirements placed on their profession.  These physicians feel thwarted by the limited time they are allowed to spend with patients, stymied by the ever-changing rules set by insurers and other payers on what they can prescribe or offer as treatment, and frustrated by the fact that any gains in efficiency offered by electronic medical records are so soon offset by numerous, newly devised administrative tasks that must also be completed on the computer.

These concerns and issues are nothing new since the advent of managed care.  However, based on this study, the problem appears to be worsening.  One of the physicians involved with the study said one solution to the problem is for hospitals to restructure its clinics so that doctors could spend more time with patients and less time on administrative and insurance-related tasks.  These structural solutions may also work to reduce medical malpractice liability in general, as one article has observed, “the primary cause of lawsuits is not negligence but ineffective communication among patients, physicians and consultants, and families of patients.”

Let us know your thoughts on physician burnout, its impact, and solutions to the problem.

FDIC Ramps Up Failed-Bank Litigation in Georgia, Re-Asserts Ordinary Negligence Arguments

Posted on: October 26th, 2012

By: Kelly Morrison

Though the FDIC remained quiet through summer vacation and into early fall, they have once again filed suit against a failed Georgia bank, American United Bank of Lawrenceville, which was closed by regulators on October 23, 2009.  A copy of the complaint can be viewed here.

Notably, the new complaint includes allegations of ordinary negligence.  Similar factual and legal allegations were recently dismissed by Northern District Judge Steve C. Jones based upon the protections of the business judgment rule.  Apparently looking for another bite at this apple, the FDIC has attempted to assert that the business judgment rules does not apply due to the defendants’ undertaking of “unreasonable” lending risks.

Beyond the Political Rhetoric: Will Georgia’s Voter ID Law Reduce Minority Turnout?

Posted on: October 24th, 2012

By: Sun Choy

To be sure, Georgia’s voter ID law that requires a voter to produce a photo ID to vote has been used as a political football by both sides of the aisle over the past few election cycles.  Depending on your point of view, the voter ID law is either an attempt by Republicans to disenfranchise key voting blocs for Democrats, or prudent legislation passed to ensure the integrity of our elections.  Beyond the political rhetoric and legal challenges, a fundamental question is whether the voter ID law in fact reduces minority turnout.

Accordingly, to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article, the answer is no.  The article notes that “turnout among black and Hispanic voters increased from 2006 to 2010, dramatically outpacing population growth for those groups over the same period.”  At the same time, “Georgia’s top elections official could not point to a single case of ballot fraud the voter ID law had prevented.”  Notably, however, records show that since 2008, 2,244 provisional ballots were cast by voters who lacked a photo ID and only 658 returned with an ID.  The end result is that the remaining 1,586 votes were not counted.  It should be interesting to see if this trend of increased minority turnout continues.

Employers Beware: Florida’s Minimum Wage Set to Increase by 1.5 Percent

Posted on: October 17th, 2012

By: Jonathan Kandel

The Florida Department of Economic Opportunity recently announced that the Florida minimum wage will be $7.79 per hour beginning January 1, 2013.  This represents an increase of 1.5 percent (or $0.12) from the state’s current minimum wage of $7.67 per hour.

The increase is due to a change in the Federal Consumer Price Index.  In 2004, Florida voters approved a constitutional amendment that established a state minimum wage.  The state minimum wage is recalculated on September 30 each year, based on the Federal Consumer Price Index.

Florida’s minimum wage applies to all employees in Florida that are covered by the federal minimum wage under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).  Pursuant to the FLSA, a state minimum wage that is higher than the federal minimum wage, which is currently $7.25 per hour, prevails.  Therefore, all employees in Florida must be paid at least $7.79 per hour beginning January 1, 2013.

The increase also affects how much “tipped employees” must be paid.  If an employee meets the requirements for the tip credit under the FLSA, the employer may count tips actually received as wages under the Florida minimum wage.  However, employers must pay “tipped employees” a direct hourly wage, which is calculated by subtracting the 2003 tip credit ($3.02) from the state minimum wage ($7.79).  Accordingly, the direct hourly wage for “tipped employees” will be $4.77 as of January 1, 2013.

Due to the increase, employers in Florida must update their state minimum wage posters.  In addition to the federal posting requirements, Florida requires employers to post a minimum wage notice in a conspicuous and accessible place in each establishment where employees work.  The updated state minimum wage posters can be downloaded in English and Spanish at http://floridajobs.org/business-growth-and-partnerships/for-employers/display-posters-and-required-notices.

 

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month

Posted on: October 15th, 2012

By: Dave Cole

You may already know that October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, but did you know that it also is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month?  In his proclamation of this as Cybersecurity Awareness Month, President Obama explained that, although our country benefits immensely from the Internet, increased connectivity brings increased risk of theft, fraud, and abuse.  This is true for businesses and consumers alike.

To help educate people about cyber threats, the Department of Homeland Security is leading the Stop.Think.Connect. campaign.  Stop.Think.Connect. is a national campaign to help people understand cyber threats and how to protect their online privacy.  There also are resources designed specifically for government and businesses, such as the “Small Business Tip Card,” which gives statistics on cyber threats affecting small businesses (did you know 40 percent of all cyber-attacks target businesses with fewer than 500 employees?) and helpful tips for preventing cyber-attacks and resources if your organization is attacked.

Cybersecurity Awareness Month is a good opportunity for organizations to review their cybersecurity framework.  If you have questions or need help improving your program or policies, please contact one of our attorneys.