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Healthy career outlook for health care professionals with law skills

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(BPT) – Career opportunities in the health care industry are expected to continue growing more quickly than in virtually any other industry, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Outlook Handbook. Not only is the health care industry expected to add more than 2 million new jobs by 2024, many existing roles will continue to evolve, creating additional opportunities for professionals currently working in what is a very broad field.

Health care law is one area seeing significant growth, thanks in part to the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). It’s one of the fastest-growing disciplines for graduate and post-graduate degrees, according to Lawyer & Statesman. The changes spurred by the ACA are also inspiring many professionals to learn more about the law to enhance their career opportunities and boost their skill sets.

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“Health care professionals routinely find their day-to-day tasks affected by legal issues like regulatory compliance, risk management, malpractice, ethics, and patient privacy,” says Scott Johnson, professor of law at Concord Law School, part of Kaplan University. “Recent laws and regulations governing these issues and the delivery of health services generally make knowledge of health care law a real career asset these days. A background in law can help a wide range of professionals, from administrators to clinicians to technology entrepreneurs be more effective in their current roles and better positioned to seize emerging opportunities.”

Legal expertise can benefit health care professionals and their patients across many aspects of the industry, but it is particularly helpful in three key areas, Johnson notes:

* Regulatory compliance – Compliance professionals help providers prevent, detect, and correct any actions, policies, or procedures that are counter to the many regulations governing the health care industry. They also help promote ethical conduct. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) of 1996 propelled growth in this area and regulatory compliance has been one of the fastest-growing professions over the past 15 years. Health care professionals in a wide range of positions including those who work with electronic health records, Medicare or Medicaid requirements, or the various requirements from the Affordable Care Act (ACA) could benefit from knowledge of legal issues related to regulatory compliance.

* Ethics – A subspecialty of regulatory compliance, knowing legal issues related to ethics is particularly important for professionals working in facilities where research also takes place. Bioethical principles and standards cover areas such as human subject research, genetic privacy, patient rights, rehabilitation ethics and more.

* Risk management – This discipline focuses on reducing errors to protect patients as well as health care employers. This includes provider and institutional liability, notification and apology programs, risk assessments, patient safety, and adverse event reporting.

The growth of health care law has encouraged schools to create specialized degree programs for professionals seeking added legal expertise, but not planning to become practicing attorneys. For example, Kaplan’s Concord Law School offers a health care law track within its Executive Juris Doctorate (EJD) program. Since most industry professionals are working full-time, and often outside of the typical 9-5 work day, going back to school can be challenging. However, as the first fully online law school since 1998, Concord provides a unique solution.

“One of the great benefits of the online EJD Health Law program is that it is offered through our law school,” Johnson says. “EJD students take the same classes that our law students take and they learn from the same law professors. Attending our law school provides EJD students with a thorough understanding of the law. They enjoy the opportunity to develop the skills necessary to analyze the law and explain its impact. Plus, they get to do all of it in a flexible, online program. EJD students can apply these skills by helping health care providers and professionals comply with the myriad of state and federal laws that govern health care.”

To learn more about Concord Law School and the health care law track, visit www.concordlawschool.edu.

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