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When OTs Wore White Shoes

Have You Thought About Malpractice and OT?

Published October 20, 2014 9:30 AM by Debra Karplus
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.

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March 14, 2015 3:16 PM

Thanks for reading & commenting, Margaret.

Indeed, we live in a very different world today, than when many of us starting working as an OTR in the 1970s.  There is both good and bad to those differences.

Debbie K, Champaign, IL, author

Debra Karplus October 30, 2014 12:58 PM

I am an OTR and nowadays we are relegated to just doing the evals and recerts if lucky... and now all these SNFs want them done within 24 hours of admission... it has been crazier every year since the RUGS turned therapy minutes into the cash cow for the nursing homes.. insurance is a good idea... especially with the fierce new emphasis on Medicare denials... onenursing home had the whole month of February denied... OT PT and SLP...just for some billing code error... and I went to a course this summer where the OTR owned her own outpatient business... Medicare denied every single case... across the board... the course was on the G codes... just another ploy used to deny services.... everything is getting even more litigious as we speak... I guess I have been on the truck too long... wasn't an OTR till 1977 ..but in healthcare since 1972... 5 years as a CNA working my waythru school ... worked as Student Supervisor at Loyola when I worked in Chicago... worked at Cuneo Hospital and for Excellcare for years ... doing many hospitals... even some fill in in psych ... when OT was still involved in acute psych units... I need to writemy book before I kick the bucket... if you are from Chicago area.. it is a small world... I'll bet we could play 7 degrees to Kevin Bacon... and might know some of the same people... or have worked in some of the same hospitals... looks like we were both around before state licensure... do you recall it was Jessica Presperin and I think Corky Glantz who were the main lobbyists for obtaining licensure back in 1984 ... it is a small world after all... just like they said at Disneyland :)

Margaret Morrison, Geriatrics - OTR/L, PRN October 26, 2014 2:33 PM
East Central IL

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