Medical Malpractice News

Emergency Medicine Practice Comes with High Risks & High Medical Malpractice Insurance

Tags: | Comments: 0 | March 23rd, 2011

Picture of an Emergency Room Entrance at a Hospital

The Emergency Medicine medical practice is, at least with a basic understanding, known fairly well to the average, everyday patient. This is partially due to the facts that millions of Americans use the services of an emergency room each year as well as the Hollywood depiction of an Emergency Room (ER) in television shows (such as ER) and movies. Emergency medicine doctors not only face the high risks of practicing medicine within the emergency room, they also much face a much higher medical malpractice insurance premium.

The Life of An Emergency Medicine Doctor

Emergency room physicians do deal with life saving issues that are depicted so dramatically on TV, but there are also times where these physicians are governed by what comes into the emergency room. ER physicians must be prepared to address what ever situation that comes through the door on any given shift. The range of situations an ER doctor much face can be from major life threatening issues; such as car accidents and heart attacks, to psychological and safety issues; such as suicidal and homicidal thoughts, to less threatening issues; such as the flu, common cold, and insect bites.

An emergency room physician must be able to make a quick assessment on what he/she can and should address at time of treatment as well as to what should be referred to a specialist. They must keep in mind the most important role is always being on the forefront of saving lives in an emergency. The practice of emergency medicine comes with a higher risk population of patients due to a large percentage of the patients having emergency medical needs. High risk patients, means a higher risk to the medical malpractice insurance companies carrying their liability coverage.

How High Risk Affects Emergency Medicine Medical Malpractice Insurance

By federal law, emergency rooms are not allowed to refuse any patients, despite the risk to their medical malpractice insurance. In some rural areas, small regional hospitals have been known to often take care of the areas patients for more than just their urgent medical needs. This is a trend that is also seen for low income patients who do not have health insurance in highly populated cities. The emergency room setting has a wide variety of medical patients seeking treatment during any given day.

Due to emergency rooms having a higher risk of malpractice claims, and medical malpractice insurance premiums soaring, many state governments have put in place tort reform. Such health care reform has given special treatment to emergency room physicians. In states like Texas, a patient cannot successfully sue a doctor and win an indemnity payment from that physician’s medical malpractice insurance company, unless they can prove the physician was grossly negligent. This is very difficult for a plaintiff attorney to prove, and has helped reduce the number of medical malpractice insurance company claims.

While the risk of receiving a medical malpractice insurance claim is higher for emergency room physicians, so is their average salary. Emergency room physicians are trained specifically for emergent situations and they save lives everyday. State governments do recognize these efforts and continue to strive to help lower the risk for emergency room doctors liability.

Policy Forms & the Underwriting of Emergency Medicine Doctors Medical Malpractice Insurance

Medical malpractice insurance carriers try to take this all into account as they underwrite an emergency medicine physician’s exposure. Typically the medical liability insurance carriers have separate classifications for surgical/trauma and non-surgical, with the former obviously having the higher medical liability premium. There is a wide range of medical malpractice insurance carrier options for emergency room physicians to choose from; including traditional Stock Companies to specific Risk Retention Groups (RRG) for emergency medicine practice. When selecting a medical malpractice insurance company, the policy form, coverage, defense and the company’s financial stability should be carefully considered before making a final selection.

Many emergency medicine groups will have several emergency rooms that they cover at different hospitals. Emergency rooms tend to have full and part-time physicians on staff as well as higher turnover rates compared to other physician specialty groups; such as orthopedic surgery, plastic surgery or internal medicine. There are different medical liability policy forms that can address specific issues, as named above, for the specifics of an individual medical group. Examples of such liability policy forms that are used with emergency medicine groups are;

  • Traditional, individual coverage for each physician, group slot policies;
  • Or policies based on the number of patient visits.

There are benefits to each liability policy depending on the physician’s exposure and each policy should be carefully considered, before a decision is made, with a professional medical malpractice insurance consultant.