Legal Jargon in Healthcare Compliance Plans


Ever watch a TV legal show and hear words that you have no idea what they mean, but you know they are legal jargon stemming from their Latin roots? They are not meant to simply impress you or make you feel as if there is some secret code that only lawyers know. Instead, words are an art form in law.

A short story would help: The first time I stepped before a Judge to argue a case, I said what I had learned and heard a million times in Moot Court practice – “May it please the Court, my name is….” – I was on my way. Easy sailing from here – right? No. The Judge leaned forward in his chair and pointed his finger angrily at me and said, “Counselor, I have had a crappy day so far, so there is nothing you could say today that will ‘please the Court’– now what is that you are needing today? Speak English.”

Wall Street to Main Street.

Suddenly those simple words made total sense. I didn’t need to talk with decades-old legal mumbo jumbo words to impress the Judge or even the non-lawyers in the room. I actually sounded like those TV lawyers, only I didn’t look as good!

How to get the compliance message across so that everyone can understand it?

Actually, there is more of an art in writing effectively and communicating simply than it may sound. And having gone to law school doesn’t automatically make you good at it.

In order for a healthcare compliance plan to be effective, it must be easy to understand and follow. It must be well laid out and planned and it must contain enough information to provide a non-lawyer with what you are expecting of them.

Example of too much legal jargon:

In conformance with Section 12345 of subsection 345(b)( i) of the federal False Claims Act, all staff, and any designee so appointed or contracted by ABC Hospital must…

Example of effective legal jargon:

Compliance is everyone’s business. The compliance plan is a guide for all staff to review. We will provide sufficient training and update training during your employment with ABC Hospital. You need to know you can always bring questions and/or issues to management in confidence. ABC Hospital will not seek retribution for and will keep confidential the matters that are raised in this manner…

Compliance plans are strongest when they are drafted internally and not based on an off-the-shelf policy. It must be tailored to your organization. An effective compliance plan will also need to continuously evolve and change given the ever-changing healthcare compliance landscape. In fact, Inspector General Daniel Levinson told the Health Care Compliance Association’s annual Compliance Institute that “health systems should assess their programs annually and that compliance and enforcement have really had a very positive impact on the conduct and behavior of major drug companies and other healthcare providers who are involved in earlier fraud schemes.”

Finally, there is no way to avoid utilizing certain legal terms and references to statutes and regulations. In order to properly educate and inform healthcare employees, terms need to be defined and links to references or resources. An effective compliance plan is also one that needs to be easily accessible for staff to reference. Proper documentation of training and audit of compliance should also be a part of the compliance plan.

Words are impactful. In order to be effective, they must express what you actually mean and yet also be easily understood by non-lawyers. As a lawyer, myself, I have spent the last 25 years learning how to de-legalize my wording and to go from “Wall Street to Main Street.”

Michael Rosen, Esq.

Written by Michael Rosen, ESQ
ProviderTrust Co-Founder,

Michael brings over 20 years of experience founding and leading risk mitigation businesses, receiving numerous accolades such as: Inc Magazine’s Inc 500 Award and Nashville Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year
Connect with Michael on Linkedin

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