Professional Liability Insurance for Errors and Omissions
Many people do not fully understand the reasons for which an individual medical transcriptionist or a transcription service might choose to purchase professional liability insurance, often referred to as E&O or errors and omissions insurance.
Those who have voiced objections to the purchase of such insurance most often use as their justification the statement that no medical transcriptionist has ever been sued because the document he or she transcribed was found to be incorrect. The perception is that once a transcribed document is signed, the responsibility lies completely with the dictator, rather than with the individual who transcribed the dictation. This may or may not be true, depending on the circumstances of each case and the application of the law. As MTs make the transition in the eyes of the public from clerical workers to professionals, and as more MTs become self-employed, the risk of being held legally accountable for transcription errors increases. Moreover, the risk of liability for errors is not the only reason for our suggestion that AHDI members consider professional liability coverage.
There are other reasons for considering the purchase of professional liability insurance, and it is for these reasons that some healthcare clients are requiring that transcription contractors, whether multi-employee services or home-based sole proprietors, show evidence that they carry this type of insurance.
Consider the following scenarios
- You are faxing a copy of your transcription to the dictator's office, and you accidentally misdial the fax number. As a result, the fax, containing confidential patient information, is received by someone other than the addressee, thus compromising confidentiality.
- Your modem is left on during your absence and a hacker taps into the files of your transcription service, retrieving and altering confidential patient information, compromising not only confidentiality but also patient safety. While the major blame will fall on the hacker (if identified), your client believes that you were negligent in not protecting your files.
- You load files or software onto your computer and introduce a virus that infects not only your own files but also those of your client and you have not yet made a backup.
- You work with a digital dictation system that records telephoned dictation directly onto your computer's hard disk. The disk crashes, erasing hours of untranscribed dictation done by a busy (and now very angry) client who has already discarded the handwritten notes of her findings.
- While transporting completed transcription to your client's office, your delivery pouch full of confidential patient information is stolen from your parked car.
- A member of your family, using your computer when you are not present, accesses the record of one of his co-workers and discovers that this patient is being treated for AIDS. He then tells others in his workplace, and the patient sues you for breach of confidentiality because you did not secure your computer files to prevent unauthorized access.
Preposterous, you say? So did the transcriptionists who were involved in incidents similar to the ones mentioned above.
We live in a litigious society. No longer does a simple "I'm sorry" serve to relieve us of responsibility assigned to us by someone wanting to place blame or shift the burden of liability from their own shoulders to ours. The wise business owner will be prepared for the unexpected.
AHDI first became interested in researching vendors for professional liability insurance when we began to receive calls from transcription services and independent contractors who were being asked (and in some instances required) to provide this insurance as a condition of their contracts with healthcare clients.
In 1993 the AHDI House of Delegates chose to respond to members' concerns by appointing a task force to research the availability of professional liability insurance, keeping in mind the necessity for selecting a vendor who could provide coverage at a reasonable cost.
Many AHDI members stated they were unable to locate professional liability insurance; others complained that policies, when available, were extraordinarily expensive. (A few mentioned quotes in the thousands of dollars.)
Months of research went into locating the vendor who agreed to carry professional liability insurance at a reasonable group rate for AHDI members. The selection of Albert H. Wohlers & Co. (now renamed Seabury & Smith) as a vendor was announced in 1995. The premiums offered by this company are well below those reported to us by MTs who have attempted to purchase professional liability insurance directly.
Make an informed decision
Is professional liability insurance necessary for medical transcriptionists? A good many of our members evidently feel it is, because they requested that we make it available. AHDI believes such coverage should be a consideration for every transcriptionist who carries an individual or company responsibility for confidential patient information.
AHDI suggests that you discuss the question of liability coverage with your financial and/or legal advisor, rather than making a decision based on our recommendations or those of others who may be relying on anecdotal information and are not in a position to assess the requirements of your business. You may even want to do some comparison shopping to assure yourself that the coverage offered by the vendor AHDI has selected represents the best value for you. In addition, you may have to educate those who assume you are seeking coverage only for mistakes you might make in the reports you transcribe. Most people do not understand the many facets of a medical transcription business.
For information about the professional liability insurance available to members of AHDI, please call Seabury & Smith at 800-503-9230 or visit their website at www.seaburychicago.com and request a free brochure.