Interview with Dr. Marjorie Stiegler
On this week's episode of the PNC podcast, I had the pleasure of a return visit from Dr. Marjorie Stiegler. Marjorie shares her insights into the legal landmines that a physician encounters when starting a new business or side hustle, and offers some strategies for avoiding them.
As Marjorie is a returning guest, this episode is a little different. We don't go into Marjorie's own background or the specifics of her business. If you are interested in learning more about her, you should listen to Episode 84.
We're proud to have the University of Tennessee Physician Executive MBA Program, offered by the Haslam College of Business, as the sponsor of this podcast.
The UT PEMBA is the longest-running, and most highly respected physician-only MBA in the country, with over 650 graduates. Unlike other programs, which typically run 1 – 1/2 to 2 years, this program only takes a year to complete. And Economist Magazine recently ranked the business school #1 in the world for the Most Relevant Executive MBA.
University of Tennessee PEMBA students bring exceptional value to their organizations. While in the program, you'll participate in a company project, thereby contributing to your organization.
Graduates have taken leadership positions at major healthcare organizations. And they've become entrepreneurs and business owners.
By joining the University of Tennessee physician executive MBA, you will develop the business and management skills you need to advance your career. To find out more, contact Dr. Kate Atchley’s office by calling (865) 974-6526 or go to vitalpe.net/physicianmba.
While everyone who embarks on a new business venture opens themselves up to a certain level of legal liability, for physicians it is particularly complex. It is important for physicians to understand that our risk of encountering certain legal landmines is especially high.
More than just medical malpractice, there are a variety of considerations that have potential consequences.Dr. Marjorie Stiegler
Marjorie notes that a lot of physicians aren't thinking about how being a member of the medical profession might add unique risks when establishing a new business. However, in the event that a complaint is filed or someone decides to sue, your background as a physician can absolutely come into play.
However, that does not mean that you should be discouraged from starting a business or side gig. It is just a question of ensuring that you go about it the right way, to protect you, your existing partners or employer, and your patients and clients. With that in mind, Marjorie offers a few key questions that need to be answered to ensure you are adequately protecting yourself.
1. Are you practicing medicine?
This is the most important question to ask. If the work you are doing is in any way related to practicing medicine or providing care, you need to ensure you are protected by your malpractice carrier, and are not violating any licensing regulations.
However, just because you do not think that what you are doing could be seen as practicing medicine, others may not see it that way. Your title of ‘doctor' may well affect how people view your recommendations.
Just saying ‘this is separate from my medical practice' may not cut it.Dr. Marjorie Stiegler
Marjorie uses the example of skin care or nutritional products. While not medical in nature, your customers may be influenced in their purchase by your position. Marjorie reminds us, “Just saying ‘this is separate from my medical practice' may not cut it.” Which brings us to the next point.
2. Do all parties involved clearly understand the nature of your relationship with them?
It is essential that everyone involved knows exactly in capacity you are operating, including business partners and customers. If you are not practicing medicine, you need to explicitly state that you are not engaging in your new role as a physician in any way.
You still need to operate within the bounds of ethical guidelines, and ensuring clarity with all parties involved will go a long way to ensuring that you are protected should a complaint or lawsuit be filed.
3. Are you in compliance with state laws, board requirements, and FDA and FTC regulations?
This is one of the legal landmines that many doctors overlook because they don't think their product or service would fall under the jurisdiction of these bodies. It is essential to know your state board's position on doctors working in your industry and how they should conduct themselves.
This is another area where it is vital to consult a lawyer. Marjorie suggests finding someone who understand the liability of working in an emerging field like integrative medicine or cannabis-related medicine. That way, they should be familiar with the latest regulatory developments and precedents in your state.
4. Do you avoid making any specific claims about any products?
This should be an obvious one, but there are lots of potential grey areas to consider that many physicians overlook. You may be aware that you are not allowed to give out medical advice, but what exactly construes medical advice?
If you are marketing a product, particularly one in the health or wellness sector, you need to be very careful. What may seem to you to be a simple marketing tagline about the efficacy of a product could be construed as a doctor-endorsed claim because it is coming from you.
This doesn't mean that you cannot work in those industries. You just need to be careful about the nature of your claims about the product. And be sure to discuss your plans with an attorney beforehand.
5. Do you have permission to do the work or use intellectual property that's part of your business?
This, Marjorie notes, is an issue that many doctors entering the entrepreneurial world overlook. It may seem ridiculous to ‘ask permission' to start your own business, but there are several things to consider.
If you work with partners or an employer, there may be clauses in your contract that prevent you from earning outside income. Your professional liability insurance provider may also have stipulations that affect your coverage if you work in other capacities.
The last thing you want is to generate income and then discover it belongs to your employer as a result of contractual stipulations. It is vital to review any contracts and discuss a planned side business with your employer or partners, and involve an attorney if needed.
None of these concerns should be an insurmountable barrier to pursuing your venture. They just need to be considered in order to protect yourself and your new business. Consult legal counsel, review your contracts, and always ensure that your medical practice and your business ventures do not overlap in some way.
Marjorie discusses all this and more in her signature courses. She has very generously offered our listeners a special discount code to receive $200.00 off either The Branding Prescription or The Speaking Prescription. Just go to her website at courses.marjoriestieglermd.com and enter code PNCPODCAST to claim it. (I am NOT an affiliate marketer for her courses, and receive no compensation if you register.)
If you have any experiences dealing with other legal landmines, including any we did not cover during our interview, Marjorie would love to hear from you. You can find her contact details in the links below.
Links for today's episode:
Thanks to our sponsor…
Thanks to the UT Physician Executive MBA program for sponsoring the show. It’s an outstanding, highly rated, MBA program designed for working physicians. It might be just what you need to prepare for that joyful, well-paying career. You can find out more at vitalpe.net/physicianmba.
I hope to see you next time on the PNC Podcast.
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