Resolve to strengthen risk management in 2014

The medical malpractice industry is currently experiencing a soft market with historically low prices--a trend some experts say should serve as a warning against complacency.

In particular, a Physicians Practice post noted that insurers could be on the brink of raising premiums while simultaneously protecting their return on investment by becoming more selective in whom they cover. What's more, some of the newer players that entered the market in profitable times may not be able to step up for physicians in a tougher market, according to author Jeffrey D. Brunken, president and chairman of the board of The MGIS Companies Inc.

"Buyers utilizing lower rated carriers, some of which could be unable to survive a harder market, could see those insurers fail or face difficulties paying claims. If that happens, some providers could have a tough time finding coverage," he wrote.

Also keep in mind that not all products designed to protect against new risks related to electronic health records and cyberliability are created equal, Physicians Practice noted. When purchasing coverage, make sure the amounts are adequate to pay for the full cost of addressing a data breach, for example.

But whether or not the market is poised to shift in 2014, practices should resolve to use this opportunity to strengthen their risk management programs. "For example, look at those issues that always seem to have an effect on malpractice such as common prescription errors, patient hand-off, and interpersonal communication skills with patients (look at yourself and your staff)--then ask where you can improve," Brunken wrote. "Look for insurance carriers and brokers that will help in your effort."

To that end, make sure your risk management program prepares your practice for the unexpected, as some more unusual cases cited by Medscape prove that no detail is too small to overlook--and document. Although the cases described in the article involve some extreme circumstances (e.g., a cardiac patient's death during a threesome, a doctor being held liable for a patient's compulsive gambling), the root causes of the litigation include basics, such as clearly warning patients about physical restrictions and side effects, documenting fax confirmations and unrushed medical decision-making.

To learn more:
- read the post from Physicians Practice
- see the article from Medscape