Adverse Anesthesia Events: Are They Inevitable?

Statistically speaking, anesthesia-related deaths are very rare: only one death is reported per every 200,000 – 300,000 events. But as with any medical procedure, there is room for improvement, including more stringent monitoring techniques and widespread adoption of best practices. Both of these suggestions can pave the way for standardized procedures to make that statistic even smaller.

The leading causes of anesthesia-related issues include:

While not all adverse events result in death, serious issues can arise, such as brain injury, brain death, increased cardiac and respiratory complications, prolonged hospital stays, and necessary mechanical ventilator support.

Patient knowledge, consent, and comfort are important factors in anesthesia care. Thoroughly discussing techniques, risks, and outcomes with patients encourages candid dialogue about patient history, current physical constraints, or even mental illness that may affect certain modes of anesthesia. Setting the proper expectations for patients creates an environment of trust and confidence in their providers.

In the unlikely event that issues arise, immediately document every aspect of the incident. While this includes a thorough description of technical events, don’t overlook the importance of engaging relevant consultants, such as neurologists and radiologists. Professionals from other disciplines can provide valuable third-party insight in determining cause and effect.

CARE members also have valuable resources at their disposal, such as the RiskFit helpline (available compliments of CARE’s partnership with OmniSure). This helpline can answer questions and provide guidance on how to best mitigate the risk arising from adverse events. The RiskFit helpline garners best practices from the volume of information it collects on similar events. Coupled with the experience level of the associates that provide consultations, this information helps members decide on the best course of action specific to their situation.

Contact us today if you would like more information about the benefits of joining CARE, or would like to see how the CARE/OmniSure partnership can benefit you too.

What is Professional Liability Insurance for Healthcare Professionals?

Also known as medical malpractice insurance, professional liability coverage protects healthcare workers from financial risk associated with patient bodily injury, medical expenses, and property damage. As with any legal-laden issues, the cost associated with risk mitigation can be substantial. And it’s not solely about paying claims, because insurers also spend a considerable amount of money investigating and defending claims before a suit ever makes it to court. With so much money at risk, proper insurance coverage is a necessity.

There are two basic types of coverage to consider: occurrence-based or claims-made:
• Occurrence-based: this type of policy covers a loss that occurs during the active insurance policy period, even if the claim is filed after the policy is cancelled.
• Claims-made policy: this type of policy covers any claims reported during the active policy period, regardless of when the injury/loss happened.

Outside of either of these types of coverage, providers should also consider purchasing extended reporting endorsement (tail) coverage, which indefinitely extends the time during which claims may be reported. Tail coverage can be very expensive to purchase due to its perpetuity of liability.

Due to the fact that claims can be made long after the date of service, premiums for claims-made policies are lower than occurrence-based policies. However, in order to balance out the risk, claims-made policy rates increase rapidly year-over-year.

Professional liability coverage is mandatory due to the large financial risk at stake. Policies can be underwritten by individual insurance companies or collective risk retention organizations. Very large healthcare organizations are sometimes self-funded, wherein they establish an account or trust to pay these types of expenses.

It’s important to note that not all liability comes from medical errors, so your liability insurance also needs to cover expenses related to data breach mitigation and regulatory requirements, such as HIPAA compliance.

Contact us today if you have questions about what type of coverage is best suited for your practice. We would be happy to help you review your options.

Choosing Your Medical Malpractice Insurance Carrier 

One of the biggest decisions a physician makes is who they choose as their medical malpractice insurance provider. Hopefully price isn’t the only barometer for decision making, because many insurers provide different services at different price points. Naturally, you want an optimal plan at a reasonable price, but there are other factors to consider, such as:

  • Personal/professional references  
  • History and experience
  • State-based licensure
  • Coverage limitations and exclusions
  • The fine print

Armed with the above information, it is easier to compare carriers side-by-side, and see exactly what your insurance dollars get you. Also, if you specialize in a specific area, you may want to focus on insurance providers who have clients similar to your practice. They will have the most experience with your specific needs.

The list of questions you could ask potential insurance carriers is pretty lengthy, so stay focused on what is important to you. For example, 

  • Do you have a large Medicare patient base? Then focus on carriers with extensive experience in federally mandated compliance requirements.
  • Are you concerned about local laws and need a liaison to navigate potentially complicated waters? Then you are probably better served by a local agency than a national firm that doesn’t provide the opportunity to develop local relationships. This may end up being of the utmost importance, should a lawsuit go to trial.
  • Would you benefit from additional guidance and tools, such as data analysis? Then choose a firm that offers a suite of services, not just basic malpractice coverage.

Click here for ideas about additional questions to consider.

Keep in mind that insurance carrier selection is not a one-time event. Your coverage should be evaluated annually, including a quick check of the competition. But your evaluation is not completely based on your carrier. Take a look at your practice’s history over the past year. Not just whether you’ve had to file claims, but take stock of whether any significant changes you’ve made might affect your malpractice coverage needs.

Contact us today if you have questions about the process of choosing a medical malpractice insurance provider. We would love to put our expertise to work for you.

The Benefits of a Solid Risk Management Plan

It’s imperative to be proactive in healthcare. Not only in caring for your patients and staff, but also to stay ahead of any inherent risks to your business. A solid risk management plan reduces your liability in the first place, and acts to minimize litigation (should it happen). This protects not only your financial standing and assets, but also your firm’s market share, accreditation, reimbursement levels, brand value, and community standing.

One major benefit of instituting a risk management plan is that it improves patient outcomes too. A heightened awareness of processes, especially documentation, instills a sense of professionalism across your entire team, including both healthcare workers and office staff. This in turn reduces errors, which improves patient satisfaction and strengthens your reputation in the community. It also increases your bottom line by reducing expenses.

Risk management, at a basic level, is the responsibility of everyone employed at your business. But since everyone already has a full plate of responsibilities, their role is usually more reactive (to specific events) than proactive (looking at the big picture). You also need an expert on your team. Depending on the size of your practice, it might make sense to hire a risk manager. However, more often than not, your budget simply doesn’t have the room to take on a full-time salaried position. Partnering with a third-party risk management firm might be the perfect compromise.

Speaking of third parties, a level of risk is both assumed and mitigated whenever you contract with third parties. Not just for malpractice management, but for any services. Consider basics, such as records management and document shredding services. These may seem like simple tasks, but everything related to healthcare records needs to be considered under the watchful umbrella of compliance. Data sharing, storage, and destruction all fall under that umbrella.

Contact us today if you have questions about risk management and outsourcing those types of responsibilities. We would love to put our collective experience to work for you.

Medical Malpractice Concerns: Mitigating Your Risk

Can physicians and providers take steps to mitigate their malpractice lawsuit risk? While it may seem an inevitability, there are measures you can take to protect yourself and your practice.

The first step involves patient relations. Having a solid rapport with patients before any issues arise is the best way to instill confidence and trust. It is important to communicate to patients whenever a problem occurs. And if that issue includes a physician error, an apology is a necessary component of malpractice mitigation. An honest conversation about what went wrong builds faith in the patient/provider relationship. No one wants to do business with someone that they feel is untrustworthy. Not a mechanic, and certainly not a medical provider. The transparency of communicating the issue is paramount to patient relations, but the solution is also important. Resolve the issue and it strengthens your reputation as a problem solver.

Documentation is an important part of any malpractice avoidance strategy. Documentation is not only about maintaining detailed official patient records about diagnoses and procedures, but also includes proof of all conversations involving consent, care, complications, options, and expectations of both the provider and the patient. An often-overlooked piece of documentation is when a patient is referred to another provider. If their condition is serious, ensure that they understand the urgency in which they need treatment and follow up.

Another element largely at play is simple geography. Educate yourself on your state’s specific malpractice laws. Variations and factors include:

  • Each state’s tort reform laws differ, some require a certificate of merit before a case can proceed through the court system
  • Some states enlist the professional opinion of medical review panels, which are comprised of medical and legal professionals
  • Statutes of limitation also differ between states
  • Damage caps vary, and play a large part in whether attorneys are willing to proceed with malpractice suits

In general, it’s important to have a concrete system of checks and balances in place (this protects both providers and patients). It encourages professionalism at all points of contact and eliminates doubt that any patient is likely to have when undergoing serious/complicated medical treatment. Being deemed reliable is a great way to mitigate your malpractice suit likelihood.

Contact us today. We can analyze your firm’s liability potential and provide you with solutions to lessen your malpractice concerns.