Industry leaders look to the future in Palm Desert

Firm Owners Executive Conference targets networking, business issues

Court reporting firm owners from around the country gathered Feb. 8-10 in Palm Desert, Calif., to hone business strategies, expand their networking circles, and look to the future of the profession at NCRA’s Firm Owners Executive Conference. Led by “content weaver” Sarah Michel, a nationally recognized speaker and business strategist from consulting firm Velvet Chainsaw, attendees experienced the gamut of educational topics, including surviving an IRS audit, the impact of HIPAA regulations, how to incorporate video and its swiftly moving technological requirements, and networking the right way.

“I know you’re hoping to increase your connections and also connect with your community with like-minded firm owners,” Michel said as she kicked off the event, hosted at the JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa. “That’s why I know that face-to-face meetings will never die.”

Michel encouraged participants to greet strangers and look to connect with people previously outside their business network. “When you step out of your comfort zone, when you connect with people you don’t know, that’s when the magic happens.”

“Talking to people you already know,” she added, “is like talking in an echo chamber.”

Guided by Michel’s experienced hand as a conference leader, firm owners also helped each other with business challenges and opportunities during a spirited information exchange. “We’re leveraging the intellectual equity in this room,” she said.

The goal, she noted, was to share experiences and spend targeted time working on court reporting-specific business challenges. “This is a chance for you to guide the conversation, make sure everybody is touching the ball, and keep the conversation going,” she said.

The Firm Owners event included a specialized educational line-up developed by NCRA’s Firm Owners Committee. Max Curry, RPR, CRI, of Elite Reporting Services, Nashville, Tenn., shared with attendees his own experience of having gone through an IRS audit, encouraging firm owners to invest the time and effort to engage in preventative measures to avoid issues down the road. “The more you act as if you have something to hide, the deeper they’re going to dig,” he explained. “I think my approach was the right approach. I went in asking, ‘What do you need me to do?’”

Sarah Nageotte, RDR, CRR, CBC, NCRA President, gave attendees a snapshot of recent activities of NCRA, including an update on the association’s Vision 2018 strategic plan and the success of its national Take Note publicity campaign. “Did you know that NCRA has garnered more press and publicity for the profession in the last six months than it has in the previous six decades combined? Did you know that young teenagers are not only aware of court reporting as a profession, but are starting to think of it as cool?”

The Vendor Speed Dating was again a popular session, as sponsors presented their new technologies and business tools in a rapid-fire session designed to give attendees a brief overview of what might be able to take their businesses to the next level. Firm Owners Executive Conference sponsors were Allen, Maxwell & Silver, Inc.; eDepoze; eTERA Consulting; meetingrooms.com; Pengad; Precision Video Conferencing; Realtime Coach; Remote Counsel; Stenograph, LLC; The Varallo Group; Thomson Reuters; Visionary Legal Technologies; and YesLaw.

For more information on upcoming NCRA events and networking opportunities, visit NCRA.org/events.

E-seminar review: Court reporters and HIPAA

In regards to HIPAA, it’s important to know where the obligations of court reporters and the profession as a whole fit. Joe Dyleweski, managing director for Health Care Management, and Jon Moretti, vice president of the Moretti Group, present a wealth of information about HIPAA compliance during their recent e-seminar.

Moretti starts the presentation by giving a history of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 and how important it is, especially now that a lot of delicate information is saved electronically. Dyleweski and Moretti also make the legislation simpler to understand by providing their version of HIPAA 101 when it comes to court reporters. In fact, the court reporter’s role when doing a patient’s deposition needs to be taken very seriously.

The e-seminar also presents a case study that includes the challenges presented, what was discovered, and how it was remedied. There are always lessons learned, but the bottom line still remains that court reporters need to have safeguards in place. When working with independent consultants, it’s also important to have an agreement so they understand what’s expected, especially when starting a new assignment. Even an IT company or department should understand the delicate nature of working with sensitive information.

Anybody who has access to personal health information has to understand HIPPA and understand the responsibility that comes with it. Moretti adds, “You have a responsibility to protect the patient’s information. You don’t want to ignore it because it is enforced. And you could be liable for violations of these rules.”

This must-see e-seminar is now available in NCRA’S online collection.

The Office of the National Ombudsman shares information for small business owners struggling with regulations

Following NCRA President Nancy Varallo’s testimony at the National Regulatory Fairness hearing before the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Office of the National Ombudsman has shared information on how small business owners can report “unfair or excessive federal regulatory compliance or enforcement.” Varallo’s testimony was specifically directed at the new HIPAA regulations on keeping personal information private, but the National Ombudsman can help small business owners with other regulatory issues as well.

The National Ombudsman: Protecting small businesses and promoting government accountability

Who is the National Ombudsman?

The Office of the National Ombudsman assists small businesses facing unfair or excessive federal regulatory compliance or enforcement issues such as repetitive audits or investigations, excessive fines, and retaliation.

As an impartial liaison, the Office of the National Ombudsman directs reported regulatory fairness matters to the appropriate federal agency for high-level fairness review and works across government to address those concerns, reduce regulatory burdens, and help small businesses succeed.

Congress established the Office of the National Ombudsman in 1996 as part of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA). The Act ensures that businesses, small government entities, and small nonprofit organizations have a means to comment if they experience unfair regulatory enforcement actions by federal agencies.

The National Ombudsman can help

  • If you’re a small business or represent one, a nonprofit organization, or a small government entity (population 50,000 or less), and
  • If your comment or complaint directly involves a federal agency and federal regulation

How to file a comment or complaint with the National Ombudsman’s office

Interested in filing a comment or complaint? Follow these three easy steps:

1. Visit sba.gov/ombudsman/comment

2. Complete the form as instructed. Here are a few tips:

  • Describe the enforcement, inspection, or compliance taken by the federal agency and the results.
  • Briefly state the specific action or outcome you are seeking.
  • Provide documentation of the action taken if available, such as correspondence, citations, or notices.

3. Submit the form directly online OR download the form and submit it by email, fax, or regular mail:

  • Email: ombudsman@sba.gov
  • Fax: 202-481-5719
  • Mail: U.S. Small Business Administration
    Office of the National Ombudsman
    409 3rd St, S.W.
    Washington, DC 20416

Keep in mind!

This process is not a substitute for any other action you may take regarding specific federal enforcement activity, so you should continue to pursue all legal and administrative remedies you believe are in your company’s best interest.

Need help?

There are two ways you can contact the Office of the National Ombudsman:

Read more or submit a comment.

 

Varallo urges action from the Small Business Administration’s National Ombudsman on HIPAA regulations

In June, NCRA President Nancy Varallo testified at the National Regulatory Fairness hearing before the National Ombudsmen at the U.S. Small Business Administration on the potential impact new compliance regulations regarding HIPAA, or Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, pose to court reporting professionals. These HIPAA regulations came into law specifically under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, commonly known as the HITECH Act. In addition to her testimony, Varallo has formally requested action from the SBA’s National Ombudsman on behalf of court reporters. She requested that “the Department of Health and Human Services exempt court reporters from provisions of HIPAA regulations, specifically the HITECH Act effective as of Sep. 23, 2013, when they are hired to provide verbatim court reporting services in the courtroom or in litigation-related forums, such as depositions, administrative hearings, arbitrations.”

Varallo’s letter to the National Ombudsman explains that court reporters have long been accustomed to keeping impartial confidentiality, and that protecting private information, including health information, is “a matter of routine business practice.” She further warns that since most court reporters are self-employed, and even most agencies which employ the services of court reporters are smaller than the SBA’s definition of a small business, “compliance with these regulations would be unduly burdensome” not just for court reporters, but also for subcontractors like proofreaders, production assistants, and scopists. The role of these subcontractors is also unclear under the current regulations. Varallo also expressed concern over a potential “abuse of intent” from lawyers or law firms who hire court reporters, who could each draft their own versions of a compliance document, “enabling the proliferation of a minefield of conflicting obligations.”

Varallo concluded her letter by saying, “With regard to court reporters, the HITECH Act will not ensure the sort of outcome envisioned by the law.” Compliance may be feasible for big business that “can undertake the cost and assign the manpower necessary,” but the nature of the court reporting field would make compliance a “significant burden.”

NCRA’s Board of Directors moves forward with new strategies

NCRA’s Board of Directors addressed a number of issues when it met Nov. 8 – 9 in Vienna, Va. The board received updates on the Vision for Educational Excellence Task Force, MOOC (massive open online course) program, on-demand testing system, and the 2014 Court Reporting and Captioning Week, which is scheduled for Feb. 16 – 22, 2014.

The board also approved the following:

  • NCRA will participate in the annual events of the Hearing Loss Association of America and the Association of Late Deafened Adults to educate people about captioning and CART;
  • NCRA will obtain a legal opinion as to how the new HIPAA regulations will affect the court reporting and captioning profession; and
  • NCRA will retain Ducker Worldwide, a firm based in Troy, Mich., to conduct and complete the Court Reporting and Captioning Industry Outlook as proposed by the Vision for Educational Excellence Task Force. Preliminary portions of the study are expected in the spring of 2014.

NCRA releases information on HIPAA changes for court reporters

NCRA has published a document offering general information for court reporters and court reporting firms about the changes to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, commonly known as HIPAA, that came into effect in late 2013. NCRA hired Patton Boggs, LLC, Associate Attorney Melodi Gates to provide information on how freelance court reporters and court reporting firms should respond to requests related to the regulations. This document offers general information only and should not be construed as legal advice; specific questions about HIPAA should be directed to an attorney.

The NCRA Board was asked to provide this information by the National Committee of State Associations through a resolution made at the NCSA Annual Meeting in Nashville, Tenn.

You can access the document here.

NCRA’s Board of Directors moves forward with new strategies

NCRA’s Board of Directors addressed a number of issues when it met Nov. 8-9 in Vienna, Va. The board received updates on the Vision for Educational Excellence Task Force, MOOC (massive open online course) program, on-demand testing system, and 2014 Court Reporting and Captioning Week, which is scheduled for Feb. 16-22, 2014.

The board also approved the following:

  • NCRA will participate in the annual events of the Hearing Loss Association of America and the Association of Late Deafened Adults to educate people about captioning and CART;
  • NCRA will obtain a legal opinion as to how the new HIPAA regulations will affect the court reporting and captioning profession; and
  • NCRA will retain Ducker Worldwide, a firm based in Troy, Mich., to conduct and complete the Court Reporting and Captioning Industry Outlook as proposed by VEETF. Preliminary portions of the study are expected in the spring of 2014.