No matter how proficient a doctor is in their field, one of the key elements to achieving and maintaining a successful career is investing in quality medical malpractice insurance. Physicians should exercise due diligence when researching malpractice insurance options, as there are different carriers, coverages, and policies in different states.
Besides the fact that the law requires doctors to have malpractice insurance, President and CEO of EmPRO Insurance Company, Bruce Shulan, stated that doctors need malpractice insurance for a number of additional reasons. For example, medical malpractice insurance is required for hospital privileges. It also provides professional and personal safeguards to protect doctors from losing their medical license due to incidents that occur during treatment, surgery, and diagnosis.
Insurance Carriers Can Be Recognized or Unrecognized
According to Shulan, doctors must be aware that insurance carriers may or may not be accepted. Whereas the former is regulated by the state and is, to some extent, financially protected by the state, the latter does not have to operate in conformity with state regulations and therefore there is no certainty that claims will be paid in the event of an insurance company going bankrupt. Shulan also records various types of coverage, including primary, incident, excess, and claims made.
Major policies reacted to the first dollar losses. New Jersey-based Business Credential Service defines an incident policy as one that offers lifetime coverage for any incidents that occur within the term of the policy, even if claims are filed after the policy expires, whereas claims made policies (aka, tail coverage) only cover claims filed against the insured within the term of the policy. Excess policies offer limits that go beyond those offered in the main policy.
Do Physicians Act Within State ‘Standard Of Care’?
There are many factors that influence how medical malpractice insurance determines the cost of the policy. Shulan suggests several considerations, including the doctor’s specialization, geographic location of the practice, and claims history. When it comes to deciding whether a doctor is practicing “bad medicine,” Shulan notes that insurers boil it down to weighing whether a doctor is acting against the state’s “standard of care.”
Malpractice suits can prove dangerous and time consuming for doctors. They negatively impact doctors both financially and reputationally. Because of this, doctors must align themselves with trusted insurance companies and attorneys. According to Shulan, doctors can protect themselves from malpractice lawsuits by taking steps such as simultaneously documenting patient charts, using productive patient tracking systems, tying pending test results, and implementing effective systems for follow-up care. Shulan also suggested that doctors document patient non-compliance, but doctors should not change patient charts after the incident.