Have You Thought About Malpractice and OT?
In the mid-1980s, I started doing nursing home occupational therapy consulting. Jobs came to me via word-of-mouth and I ultimately built up a comfortable number of clients to provide service to. Some of my clients were in town; others were in neighboring counties. The nature of my work was to visit the facility approximately once a month for a few hours few visit, meet with specific staff members, screen, assess and evaluate some of the nursing home residents as needed, provide in-service education, and document what I had accomplished during the visit. I enjoyed the work, was able to meet many different people and have much flexibility while raising my children who were finishing elementary school at the time.
But, I (often overly nervous and very much a worrier) had a little scare in the early 1990s which really caused me to be much more prudent and cautious. I received a phone call from one of the facilities where I consulted, not far from where I live. They had just had an unexpected state inspection that did not go well, and were trying to get me and their other consultants and independent contractors to take the blame. I panicked and quickly phoned a friend who was a lawyer and asked what he thought I should do. "Mike" suggested the name of an attorney, "Joe", in my own town who specialized in contract law and was known to be well-informed and experienced with medical practices.
I scheduled an appointment with Joe to figure out if I had reason to think that I might be in trouble. Joe assured me that I was "safe" and should not worry. But he did make some very helpful suggestions. First, he recommended that I buy malpractice insurance and suggested the type and amount of coverage I should buy. He also thought I should buy a multi-peril (umbrella) insurance for my home, as some of my OT work (phone calls and documentation) has typically been done from my home office; I purchased this policy inexpensively from the same agent who provides my homeowner's and auto insurance. Additionally, he gave me a template for writing and implementing a contract with my clients. That $125 that I paid for Joe's services may have been some of the best money I have ever spent for my therapy practice. The premium on the malpractice insurance I bought was only about $120 annually for one million dollar coverage per claim, and thankfully I've never needed to use it.
Researching for this blog post, I looked online to see what I could find about malpractice suits and occupational therapy. I was unable to find anything, but that does not mean there has not been litigation between OTs and places where they have worked and/or specific patients. Though I have almost always been self-employed as an OT, I believe that employers cover their employed OTs.
I welcome comments from OTs and other readers about their experience and knowledge of malpractice claims and OT.