What do you think of when you think of the law—a person in a black robe and a gavel saying, “Order in the court!”? Do you think of your state and federal legislators debating public policy? What about big federal agencies, like the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) or the Department of Labor (DOL)? If any of these images come to mind, you are correct, because the law comes from all of these sources.
While it would be nice if the law was located in one simple place, the reality is that the law is found in many places and comes from many sources. The three main sources of law are (1) court decisions referred to as case law, (2) legislative statutes put together into code books, and (3) federal regulations or state rules put into place by administrative agencies. Accordingly, the law references information from all three of these sources.
It is likely you have already interacted with the law without even knowing it. Do you know of organizations that have no-tolerance policies for sexual harassment? Do licensed doctors and nurses comply with state licensing laws to practice their profession? Does a medical organization notify patients about privacy rights? In all of these examples, the organizations and individuals are complying with the law as part of their daily process of providing health care services.
As you learn about specifics of the law, you may realize that you are already familiar with some elements. This course will help you put your current knowledge of law into context and will provide more details about what is and is not legal in health care.
A problem i can solve at the end of this week’s learning
What are ways, as a health care leader, that I can use my knowledge of the law in health care to make decisions?
This week in relationship to the course and the program
This week, you will have an overview of the law. You will learn about where the law comes from, what role it plays in business and society, and ways that it is enforced in health care. This overview includes a look at government agencies, their regulations, and how they influence health care. You also will look at organizations that license and accredit hospitals, providers, and HMOs and their role in oversight.
Understanding the way the law works forms a basis for further discussion about specific health care topics in future weeks. Watch for legal topics in future weeks that focus on contracts, criminal law, labor laws, negligence and liability, patient rights and responsibilities, as well as technology and privacy.
Think of the law like the foundation and framework of a strong building, where the building is representative of the organization. Without the solid framework, the building will fall. The law establishes the foundation and framework for a health care organization. When you make decisions that respect the law, an organization can stay strong.
The legal framework that you study this week, and throughout this course, is the foundation for all health care decision making. Remember the principles you have learned about in management and ethics courses as you learn about the law. Similarly, as you move forward, let the law provide the framework for strategic business planning. Always think about how you can make management decisions that comply with the law.
AN EXAMPLE OF HOW AN ORGANIZATION HAS ACTUALLY USED THIS WEEK’S LEARNING OBJECTIVES
A hospital committee meets every month to focus on pharmaceutical safety and on ways to prevent the wrong drug from being given when two medications look or sound alike. The committee regularly reviews any medical error incidents, makes recommendations for changes, and audits records to see how well pharmaceutical safety is managed.
This hospital committee is taking action to comply with one of JCAHO’s patient safety goals – to prevent mixing up drugs that look or sound alike. These monthly meetings help the hospital maintain