High tech: Attorney assists clients with telemedicine and e-health issues

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

Attorney Mercedes Varasteh Dordeski finds Health Care Law fascinating.

“You have this huge industry with what is really one simple focus – keeping people healthy and well – but there is so much else going on in the background that providers have to contend with,” she says. “It’s really a heavily regulated industry and it seems like every day there are new laws introduced.”

Those news laws include the innovative field of telemedicine and e-health, and Dordeski – an attorney in Foley & Mansfield’s Detroit office – helps clients find ways to incorporate telemedicine into their practice and makes sure they are protected. She counsels clients on technologies such as e-mail, video chat applications, and web-based health management portals.

According to Dordeski, the No. 1 legal issue with telemedicine is that the regulation in Michigan and many other states hasn’t kept pace with the technology.

“For example, it’s technically possible now for a physician to treat a patient using an iPhone via FaceTime,” she explains. “But does that comply with the appropriate standard of care?  Does the physician have to meet the patient in-person first? These and other questions haven’t really been addressed by licensing boards in Michigan, so providers have to be careful.”

Another issue is whether health care providers can treat a patient who is out-of-state – perhaps on vacation, or away at college. “The general rule is that a provider cannot treat a patient in another state unless they are licensed in that state, but it depends on the state laws because there may be an exception,” she explains. “Many providers are really surprised to hear this.”  

Named a Michigan Rising Star 2010-14, Dordeski represents health care providers – including physicians, nurses, and other licensed health care professionals – as well as medical practices and mental health clinics with business, employment, and compliance issues. In addition to telemedicine and e-health, her work encompasses Medicare/ Medicaid compliance and reimbursement, National Practitioner Data Bank (NPDB) reporting, medical staff credentialing and due process rights, HIPAA compliance, and Stark and anti-kickback compliance.

The scope of Stark (the physician-self referral law) and the anti-kickback laws are continually expanding, and providers have to be very creative in trying to find new business models, she notes. 

“What’s really tricky is that clients don’t want to hear ‘No, you can’t legally do that,’ so you need to be able to work with them in a way that can accomplish their goals while still complying with the law. For example, I had a national client with a proposed marketing arrangement that could have potentially violated the Anti-Kickback law. So instead of just telling them ‘No sorry, it can’t be done,’ I had to find a way to restructure it so they could still market their business but in a legal manner.”

Dordeski, who also handles employment defense and litigation, earned her undergraduate degree, cum laude, in Broadcast and Cable Production & Journalism, from Western Michigan University.

“I always enjoyed writing, and was very interested in the investigative nature of journalism,” she says. “I love meeting people from all different walks of life and hearing their stories and experiences. As a journalist, I’ve covered everything from community gardens to college tuition hikes to presidential events, and every day was a different experience and new lesson. I feel definitely feel that’s also true of practicing law.”

Her interest in the judicial system was sparked after taking political science courses as part of her journalism studies. “I feel a journalism degree is a great complement to practicing law because such a big part of being an attorney is being able to investigate, ask the hard questions and really drill down deeply into the facts of a case.”

After working at The Western Herald and The Kalamazoo Gazette, she went on to earn her J.D. from Wayne State University Law School where she was assistant editor, then associate editor, of the Wayne Law Review.

“The professors I had were outstanding,” she says. “I had previously envisioned law school as this scary place with unapproachable instructors, but everyone was genuinely welcoming and patient with explaining what was, at that time, a completely alien subject.”

At her first law firm, Frank, Haron, Weiner PLC, her mentors David Haron and Monica Navarro introduced her to health care law – and she was hooked.

The Kalamazoo native, who serves on the Council for the State Bar of Michigan Health Care Law Section, is a vice-chair of Publications for the American Health Lawyers Association, and who just completed a six-year term on the Board of Directors for the Western Michigan University Alumni Association, lives in Beverly Hills with her husband, Livonia attorney Dragan “Danny” Dordeski. The two, who met at Wayne Law, have a 20-month-old daughter, Mikayla.

A big fan of the Detroit Tigers, Dordeski also enjoys football, WMU hockey, running, cooking, good food, and trying new beers, with One-Eyed Betty’s in Ferndale and Ale Mary’s as two favorite spots. She enjoys seeing the growth the Motor City is experiencing.

“When I was in law school 10 years ago, there was pretty much nothing downtown – now every week there’s a new restaurant or bar opening up,” she says.  “I also really love how fiercely protective people from Detroit are of their city, especially since you hear so many negative things about it. I have a sign in my office that says ‘Say Nice Things About Detroit’ and I think that mentality is perfect.”

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