May 2002 MedBytes: Medical Malpractice Insurance

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Type "medical malpractice insurance" in your favorite Internet search engine window (we like Google), and page after page of hits pop up. We stopped counting at 84. Most of them are insurance company Web sites selling insurance policies or law firms looking for clients to sue a physician. There are some "objective" sites, such as insurance regulatory agencies of a few states offering guidance on those particular states' laws, and numerous newspaper stories about the liability crisis and its impact on patients. This is not to say the Internet is useless when it comes to malpractice insurance and professional liability. It's not. Some good information is available.

Texas Medical Liability Trust
You would expect a site operated by TMLT -- a not-for-profit medical liability claim trust created by TMA to provide coverage for association members -- to be a wealth of information, and www.tmlt.org doesn't disappoint. Click on "About medical liability" under "HELPFUL INFORMATION" on the right side of the TMLT home page. The site includes Medical Malpractice 101, with a 10-question true-false test that allows you to determine just how much you know about medical malpractice coverage, a checklist of 11 important questions to be answered in selecting an insurance company, and a glossary of terms that explains in simple language what those all-too-often-confusing insurance terms mean. Do you know what "vicarious liability" is? We didn't either, but the TMLT glossary told us. (It means you're liable for the actions of someone else for whose conduct you're legally responsible.)

American Medical Association
The AMA site has a lot of information on malpractice insurance issues, but you have to look for it. First, open the AMA site at www.ama-assn.org, then click on the "Physicians" button on the left side of the page. From there, go down to the sixth subject listing ("Legal Issues"). That brings up the "Business & Management" button. Click on that, then click on "Professional Liability Insurance," and you're finally where you want to be. Once there, you'll find valuable information, such as how to assess potential insurance carriers and how to evaluate a policy using such criteria as a company's financial stability, its performance record, how it handles claims, and how well you are protected if the company becomes insolvent. The site also has a link to AMA's catalog where you can order the publication Medical Professional Liability Insurance .

MedMalTree.net
Click on www.MedMalTree.net and you'll gain access to an extensive database of information relating to commercial insurance on the Internet. The site provides access to a glossary of insurance terms, types of insurance companies, a listing of insurance companies and their A.M. Best ratings, and a listing of other insurance resources like brokers, defense attorneys, claims-TPAs, risk managers, actuaries, and reinsurers. The database is geographically segmented to make it easier for you to find information pertinent to your area. Just click on "Texas" and up pops a summary of the state's medical liability problems.

On the TMA Web Site
Need Web-based reliable medical information? On the TMA Web site, you can access MD Consult's and Ebsco Publishing's clinical and health business databases. Up-to-date full-text clinical and health business journal articles, textbooks, and other resources are available. Members who use the online resources can perform their own literature searches at any time of day and in many cases will be able to print full-text excerpts from textbooks and journals. The TMA Library is offering free access to the resources as a members-only benefit. Throughout 2002, members can try out MD Consult and Ebsco for free. The pilot study is part of the development of "TMA Library of the Future." It will be continued, expanded, or refined based on member usage and satisfaction.

MedBytes is a quick look at new, or newly discovered, Web sites of interest to Texas physicians. The column also highlights features of the TMA Web site at www.texmed.org. If you know of some cool medical sites or have questions about how to use the TMA Web site, email Erin Prather. Publication of information about Web sites in this column is not to be considered an endorsement or approval by the Texas Medical Association of the sites or sponsors, or of any products or services involved.

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