By Jordan Ray
Operators in the long-term care arena recognize that attracting qualified talent is a necessary component in the overarching goal of providing residents with the best care possible. This holds true for any successful enterprise. But, we must be careful that in our zest to hire or contract with the best and most skilled caregivers and consultants that we do not promise insurance protections that they are either not entitled to or outside the scope of what we can offer. In a nursing home setting, this issue seems to be prevalent regarding the community's medical director.
In most instances, the medical director is hired as an independent contractor and is not a direct employee. However, during the hiring process, the issue of liability protection for the medical director candidate routinely surfaces. It is important to recognize that most professional liability policies offer certain protections to a medical director, but with finite restrictions and under specific circumstances. Keep in mind every policy is different, and before contracting with a medical director, consult your policy and insurance broker to determine the exact parameters of coverage.
The general rule is that the medical director does not have any direct care with the patient. Their job description entails consulting, establishing protocols for the caregivers to follow, etc. This distinction is of supreme importance regarding liability coverage. Most insurance carriers expect a doctor will carry their own medical malpractice insurance according to the laws, statutes and medical boards governing the state where they are practicing. Where it gets murky is when the medical malpractice carrier does not want to cover the individual when contracted for work in your community. In that case, the medical director candidate will request that the community covers them so they are not without coverage.
Most policies will allow coverage only for work done under their capacity as medical director. Any work outside of the facility or inside the facility that is direct care will most likely not be covered and their medical malpractice needs to provide protection.
This distinction is very important to clarify to any current and potential medical director. One should take special precaution if the medical director has personal patients. In essence, the medical director is wearing two hats and depending which hat is on will determine the carrier that will ultimately be responsible should a claim arise.
So, what should you do? Move forward with a medical director that will be great for your senior living community, and after consulting with your insurance broker, explain that they are protected with your liability policy. Always make sure to reiterate the boundaries of that protection because by no means is it limitless.