Tuesday, 16 March 2021

Medical malpractice indemnity under the spotlight

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You’ve studied for a decade or longer, established a private practice, and seek to ensure that, as a medical practitioner, you’re covered and ready to face any challenges that come your way. Being alert to the risks of private practice is one half of the battle won. Choosing the right type of cover, which is best suited to your field of practice, is the other half of the battle won.

By Vanessa Rogers on behalf of Natmed Medical Defence

What is the difference between an occurrence policy and a claims-made policy? How does this affect my premium? What will I be covered for? Will I have cover at retirement? What incidents am I required to notify my insurer of? How much professional indemnity insurance do I need and what are my options? Who am I insured by, and which lawyers do they use? What happens to past claims if I switch providers? What are the options available to a big-income unspecialised provider, a medium-income specialised provider, and a small-income newbie to the market? These are probably just a few of the questions you may have bouncing around in your head when you are faced with choosing the most appropriate medical defence cover, or when you are considering switching from one provider to another. Having a broker who focuses solely on medical malpractice indemnity insurance cover is key. The best in the industry will guide you through the process, having regard to your field of expertise and therefore ensuring that your cover is comprehensive and uninterrupted, irrespective of market fluctuations and industry changes. In the ever-growing world of medical malpractice insurers, it is imperative that medical practitioners – particularly those who form part of the high-risk fields of speciality, such as Obstetrics and Gynaecology – invest their hard-earned cash in a service provider that offers a tailored and differentiated product which is improved and enhanced on a continuous basis from an underwriting point of view. 

Birthing numbers down
A report released in June 2020 by the US-based Brookings Institution, three months after COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic, suggested that “the public health crisis and associated recession would result in 300 000 to 500 000 fewer births in 2021”. In regards to that statement, more than six months later, the figures are consistent with the (lower) suggested estimate as a result of a labour market that has improved slightly more rapidly than the world had expected. Professor Nancy Stiegler, a South African demographer and chairperson of the Statistics and Population Studies Department: Faculty of Natural Sciences at the University of the Western Cape, told News24: “A baby boom will be unlikely … The pandemic compromises confidence in the future as well as the current economic situation. It doesn’t create a conducive environment in which to consider expanding families. For South Africans and people around the world, I think fertility will decrease in the coming months because anxiety and unemployment do not favour fertility.” Part of the difficulty in a COVID-19 world is that a reduction in the birth rate does not necessarily equate to a lower risk of medical malpractice claims being instituted against medical practitioners, who are involved in the field of gynaecology and obstetrics. The risk of patients instituting medical malpractice claims is likely to be higher due to patients contracting COVID-19 while hospitalised for the delivery of their babies; hospitals being overwhelmed due to healthcare practitioners themselves being diagnosed with COVID-19 (resulting in understaffed maternity wards); and the risk factors for complications during pregnancy and in the delivery. Patients are at a higher risk of experiencing adverse events in circumstances where hospitals are faced with treating patents suffering from COVID-19, in addition to regular patients being admitted for treatment and care at the hospital. The first step in the process is to select a medical defence service provider who is fully focused on medical malpractice insurance cover and who is able to guide you through the process of selecting the type of cover that is tailored and best suited to your field of expertise – irrespective of your risk exposure. This should ideally include skilled and specialised underwriting ranging from:
• 24 hours and seven days a week access to advice regarding claims and assistance in developing a suitable plan to deal with claims;
• a simple and efficient online portal for transactions that include submitting a claim;
• astute management of claims that are POPI compliant in all respects, meaning that your submitted information is data encrypted; and
• an in-house legal team experienced on all levels in claims against private medical practitioners and as regards claims against private hospitals.

Beyond specialisation
Stephen Kellerman, key role-player in the medical malpractice insurance market and founder of Natmed Medical Defence and his team are in talks with a large European insurance company that has a minority stake in Natmed Medical Defence. The realisation of these discussions will provide Natmed Medical Defence with the opportunity to promote growth into other large-scale liability areas – such as the mining and energy sectors – thereby enhancing their future capabilities. Over the past 20 years, Natmed Medical Defence has specialised in complicated high-risk insurance cover by understanding the needs of and providing support to medical practitioners during the malpractice claims process – which in itself can prove to be highly distressing to medical practitioners already faced with highly demand practices. The team at Natmed Medical Defence is able to alleviate concerns regarding the claims process by providing its medical practitioner clients with: the necessary knowledge and information on how to avoid claims being instituted against them; the basic information that is required to report a claim; the circumstances under which a claim should be reported to the insurer; and by offering a highly efficient claims-handling process. Kellerman, whose Twitter profile describes him as an “insane mathematician”, advises that while it is critical for a practitioner to ensure that their insurance cover is tailored towards the risks of their particular practice, it remains a misnomer that specialists in high-risk categories need R1-million of cover per annum or even more. “We provide cover for as little as R200 000 per annum, subject to the risk profile of the specific practitioner and with certain terms and conditions in place. It is all about having the underwriting expertise in place over decades to be able to design a product that balances both affordability and risk protection,” according to Kellerman.

Go to https://www.natmed.mobi/ for more information.

Published in Health and Medicine

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Working alongside a select group of skilled associates and freelancers, owner Vanessa Rogers has clocked up over two decades in the print and digital media industries. She believes editorial providers should be adaptable, accurate and show keen time-keeping when it comes to deadlines.