Malpractice Insurance Claims Frequency is Down Again

In a chart provided by The doctors Company, total claims per 100 doctors have dropped from 12.8 in 2003 to 6.1 in 2014. Surprisingly they are scheduled to reduce again at the end of report year 2015, to just under 6 claims per doctor.

What does it mean to have low premiums and medical malpractice insurance?

Not only are individuals specialties renewing at lower rates but urgent care centers, emergency medical groups, hospital physicians, vertical integrative models, Eastern and Western integrative primary care centers, medical spas mixed with pain management, the list goes on and on.  There are all kinds of clinics and medical organizations that are obtaining insurance that standard market struggled with in the past.  There is, in a capital-rich, surplus-infused malpractice insurance market; more leeway, more flexibility and more capacity to accommodate risk-year healthcare practices physicians who have had bad luck.  Including increased frequency and large average settlements. In short insurance companies are more willing to hold onto risks that they would not have in prior years and their flexible underwriting standards are open to consider innovative and previously marginalized healthcare practices in the standard insurance market.

On the other hand, because most health care is financed through health insurance, patients and physicians bear little of the costs of precautionary medical care ….. Generally, insured expenses for drugs, tests, and other services performed for precautionary purposes are much larger than the uninsured cost of the physician's own effort.   Insensitivity to the true costs of health care could lead physicians to take socially excessive precautions against injury -- to practice defensive medicine.

Thus, even a perfectly functioning liability system could lead ….to either too much or too little health care.

What does the malpractice pressure do to healthcare?

Kessler goes on to say -  Although we find that direct reforms improve medical productivity (primarily by reducing malpractice claims rates) our results suggest that other policies that reduce the time spent in defending against a claim can also reduce defensive practices substantially. In addition, we find that "malpractice pressure" has a larger impact on diagnostic rather than therapeutic treatment decisions.
Physicians who have had a malpractice claim filed against them, particularly a recent claim, are more likely to report changes in practices , tending to practice more defensive medicine  than physicians who have not.

The Doctors Company works hard to manage the cost of medical malpractice insurance premiums:

Doctors Company continues to work hard to disseminate and publish information based on research.  Many contributing physicians and administrators have helped to build an impressive robust database of specialty specific articles on risk management, practice of medicine in general, and the overall effects of managing the stress of a malpractice claim…. all of these go into contributing to the cost of defensive medicine and increasing the overall cost of healthcare.  The Doctors Company's efforts reach nationwide to enact tort reforms to work towards the overarching goal of maintaining sustainable and manageable and relatively affordable malpractice insurance expenses.

Overcoming the Stress of Malpractice Litigation: Solutions to Help Physicians Stay Healthy and Engaged -The Doctors Company works hard to help physicians remain focused and confident during the uncomfortable and sometimes painful process of a malpractice claim. Today we received a call from one of our loyal and longtime policyholders and impeccable claims record he had received a disturbing phone call and after receiving a letter of intent to sue.  From the moment you receive that letter, everything changes. The malpractice claim begins to affect all aspects of your life.  There are some physicians who report that from that moment, they did not  sleep well.   They did not interact well with family members, friends, or colleagues.  At times, they don’t even tell their coworkers or discuss with administrators,

The recurring question is….. “How might this patient attempt to sue me?” Or, “If I were standing in front of a judge, what evidence would I need to defend what I’m doing?” You know you did nothing wrong—that the claim against you is unreasonable—which only adds to your frustration and sense of injustice.

If the lawsuit proceeds to trial, there is  uncertainty that accompanies any courtroom process.   The process can be lengthy, dominating your personal and professional life for a year, two years, or more.

Claims are almost a certainty in a physicians practice career.  For most doctors, this scenario will play out at least once during their career. In fact, a typical doctor spends nearly 11 percent of a 40-year career with open malpractice claims.

Facing a medical malpractice lawsuit will almost certainly be one of the most trying experiences you encounter as a physician, adding to the pressures of an already demanding profession. The lawsuit can generate an array of negative emotions, from self-doubt to high levels of stress and anxiety.   But, there are steps you can take to ease the strain you’re under and limit these symptoms.  The Doctors’ Company has written extensively about how to limit the stress ,they even host litigation retreats to study and work throughthe best way to manage the impact of a claim in your life, personally and professionally.

Prepare Thoroughly

Treat the litigation as another necessary part of your career, and take the same approach as you would toward other hurdles like a board exam. Be meticulous. Go over your chart...Familiarize yourself with every aspect of the case. Be ready for your meetings with your attorney, and take an active role in your defense.  These are some ideas that are listed on The Doctors Company website about what to do when you're in the middle of a trial. The articles address a lot of what the plaintiff's attorneys will try to do to the physician to distract, infuse anger, and belittle.  The Doctors Company holds repeated meetings with the team- the claims representative, the defense attorney and the physician to ensure everyone is on the same page in working together.

Remember, in that situation, no one in the room knows the case better than you.

Reach Out :  find a colleague willing to share; a person you respect and are comfortable with, someone who has battled a malpractice claim themselves. A colleague can offer advice and expertise on how to move forward from your ordeal.  

Make Yourself a Priority- it becomes imperative that you take care of yourself. Don’t hesitate to make yourself your first priority. Do whatever you need to do to unwind. …..If you’re not blocking out time to decompress, you’re doing a disservice to yourself,

Rising Above the Challenge

By adopting certain strategies, you can mitigate many of the negative effects so many doctors experience. Litigation will inevitably be an intense and challenging experience, but you can avoid it becoming a crisis. You can still maintain your self-assurance, keep your relationships intact, and continue to provide the vital medical care on which your community relies.

Picking the right company, Strength and Defense and Risk Management:

Because we are in the 10th year of this reduced market it can become a trend to look simply for the insurance company with the lowest premium.  We are renewing policies at 35 to 45% of what they were paying 10 years ago.  Iit is important to remember that there's a 3 1/2 to 5 year lag between the year the premium is paid and the year the claim is reported.  Financial strength, defense expertise, attention to risk management and accurate projection of building reserves are important.  The Dr.'s Insurance Agency represents The Doctors Company and other standard and flexible surplus lines carriers with A ratings or better,  to help you find the most competitive premium without compromising that important quality.

Strong medical malpractice insurance companies are still important.  Remember, malpractice insurance companies are supposed to actually make a little bit of money so that they can build reserves and respond to the large payouts that are inevitable in this volatile niche of the insurance industry.


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