As I pen this article, the Claims and Legal Services Department at MIGA is very busy, and member contact with our in-house solicitors continues to increase year on year.

Fortunately all this activity is not generated by an escalating and overwhelming number of claims, rather by doctors proactively seeking medico-legal advice on issues affecting their practice.

It has been pleasing to see members are increasingly willing to seek advice and assistance early when they feel that an issue may be brewing with a patient. This is great news for MIGA because our medico-legal advice and support service is well-used and appreciated by members and it enables us to help you proactively manage issues that might otherwise become complaints or claims. It is also great news for you, because if the broader membership is more proactive in seeking advice this has a positive flow-on effect in minimising claims and managing the cost of medical indemnity.

So, what of the stories that “all medical practitioners will be sued at least once in their career”, and “all medical practitioners will be complained about and possibly become the subject of investigation by AHPRA” during their professional life?

I am not convinced this is so.

The actual number of claims for compensation across our industry has been very stable for many years. Although in recent times there has been an increase in notifications for “Legal Expenses Only” cover (such as complaints, coronial investigations, Medicare enquiries), the notification number is still low. For example in 2014-2015 year we had 214 matters in the legal expenses only category, and in 2015-2016 we had 293 matters.

To put this into perspective, consider the huge (almost unimaginable!) number of medical services provided:

Each of these represents an “interaction” with a patient. This is a ‘mind boggling’ number of patient interactions, which puts into perspective the extremely low number of medico-legal issues arising.

The extremely low number of claims and complaints relative to this extraordinarily high workload and use of medical services by the community is a testament to the general quality of services provided by the medical and health care profession. That is something you should be very proud of.

Having said that, it is also true to say that we are seeing a rise in complaints to and investigations by AHPRA. AHPRA Annual reports show a 26% increase in medical practitioner notifications from 2015 to 20163. We have also noticed an increase in the use of the “legal expenses” section of the Policy of Insurance, for matters not directly related to patient care. This is where MIGA assists and supports members with matters such as:

  • Medicare investigations
  • Employment related issues, and
  • Training program issues.

Personally, the obvious commitment and passion of our members to the health and wellbeing of the community is the key reason why I enjoy my role at MIGA. My wonderful colleagues in the Claims and Legal Services team feel exactly the same.

The enormous pride you take in your work is demonstrated to us daily and if we can assist you manage the daily stressors by fielding those medico-legal enquiries we do so willingly. Your success is our success.

As we all launch ourselves into 2017 we would like to congratulate you, urge you to keep up the great work and remind you to call us if you need our help.

Australian Government, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australia’s Hospitals 2014-15 at a glance – Health services series 70 – July 2016
Medicare statistical data-
AHPRA Annual Report 2015-2016

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