Whistleblowing and Healthcare Law: What You Need to Know

If you work in healthcare, you have an unique obligation to your patients. Not only are you responsible for the administration of their treatment and care, but you also bear some responsibility for making sure that your employer is acting in a way that is consistent with your patient’s best interest. This ethical obligation can be difficult to navigate, particularly since your own income is tied to your employment and you may be concerned about risking it to bring up systemic issues you see in patient care. 

For example, if you see a doctor in your practice repeatedly ordering a procedure or prescription for patients that you think is unnecessary, you may be concerned that the doctor is involved in insurance fraud. In another example, if you see a doctor referring patients to his wife’s specialty practice, you may be concerned that he is violating federal healthcare law regarding patient referrals. Finally, you may be concerned that a doctor is violating federal kickback statutes if he takes frequent vacations with a pharmaceutical representative to exotic locations and also just happens to frequently prescribe medications that the representative promotes.

What should you do next? You know that these actions are inconsistent with providing the best care for your patients, not to mention are likely in violation of federal and or state law. You are, however, concerned that filing a report against your employer may have very real consequences on your job and even on the health of the larger practice for which you work. You may also be rightly concerned that filing a report will lead to some invasion of your personal life and be a stressful experience. When considering filing a report, here is a non-exhaustive list of things that you may want to consider:

  • Your Rights. Many state and federal laws protect whistleblowers. This is important if you are concerned about workplace retaliation in the form of termination, demotion, harassment, or other issues. Take time to read through the law that applies to what you believe you are seeing happen in your practice and learn what rights you may have.
  • Your Evidence. Although you do not need “hard” evidence such as documentation or audio recordings to report violations of your employer as a whistleblower, it is important that you have more than just a hunch. Keep your eyes and ears open and look for patterns in behavior that you recognize as violating legal or ethical requirements. 
  • Talk to an Attorney. An attorney specializing in whistleblowing and healthcare law will be able to give you legal advice regarding whether you have enough information to file a report with the proper authorities, how to file such a report, and how to make sure that your job and rights are protected during the filing process. There is no substitute for qualified legal counsel.

It is a burden and an opportunity when you notice potential ethical or legal violations in your workplace. Do not go through it alone. Strongly consider consulting with a lawyer, like a whistleblower retaliation claims lawyer in Washington DC from Eric Siegel Law, who can evaluate your specific situation and make sure that you meet the letter of the law and receive the protections to which you are entitled.