Risk Management

LASIK, PRK Study Identifiers Malpractice Predictors

Higher surgical volume and a history of prior claims or lawsuits are the primary predictors of whether a refractive surgeon will be sued in the future. Additional medical-legal risk factors for surgeons who perform more than 100 LASIK or PRK procedures a year include advertising use, comanagement with optometrists, preoperative time spent with patient, and physician gender.

These are the findings of a retrospective cohort study presented by Richard L. Abbott, MD, professor of clinical ophthalmology, University of California San Francisco, at the American Academy of Ophthalmology Annual Meeting in Anaheim. Dr. Abbott, who is chairman of OMIC’s Underwriting Commit- tee, compared physician characteristics of 100 consecutive OMIC LASIK and PRK claims and lawsuits to demographic and practice pattern data for all active refractive surgeons insured with OMIC between 1996 and 2002.

The study, which also looked at informed consent issues in LASIK and PRK, found that patients who sued were often presented with informed consent for the first time on the day of surgery and many had no consent note written by the surgeon in the patient record.

These findings, published in Ophthalmology (November 2003), will be useful in improving the quality of care for patients undergoing refractive surgery. In addition, OMIC will incorporate the data in its underwriting criteria and risk management protocols to help insureds who perform refractive surgery manage and reduce their risk of claims and lawsuits.

Coverage for Phakic Implants

In early October, the FDA’s Ophthalmic Devices Advisory Panel recommended approval with conditions for use of the Staar Implantable Contact Lens for the treatment of myopia. It is anticipated that many ophthal- mologists, including those who may have never previously performed refractive surgery, may be interested in offering this procedure to their patients once the lenses have gained final FDA approval.

OMIC is in the process of developing a spe- cial questionnaire and underwriting guidelines, similar to other refractive surgery procedures, so that coverage may be offered to qualified ophthalmologists for their performance of phakic implants. The questionnaire and guide- lines will address training, patient selection criteria, informed consent, operative proce- dures, postoperative care, and advertising. If approved, coverage for phakic implants will be endorsed to the policy at full policy limits. No additional premium will apply.

Please note that OMIC’s standard policy excludes coverage for all refractive surgery procedures unless specifically added by endorsement. Each type of refractive surgery procedure must be separately endorsed for cover- age to apply. While the technique for phakic implants is very similar to that for intraocular lens implants, phakic implants are considered to be refractive surgery and, therefore, are not automatically covered by OMIC. No coverage will extend for any phakic implant procedures performed unless the physician has specifically applied and been approved for coverage and the policy has been amended accordingly.

Other procedures for which coverage is available by endorsement following review and approval of a supplemental questionnaire are radial and astigmatic keratotomy, PRK, LASIK (including LASIK variations such as epi-LASIK, LASEK, IntrLase, and Custom-Cap procedures), CK, LTK, Intacs, and clear lens extraction (refractive lensectomy).

How to Reach OMIC

If you have called the OMIC office recently, you probably noticed that we have a new phone system. While our toll-free 800 number is the same, phone extensions for individual departments have changed. Please remove and save the phone card included with this issue of the Digest. It lists new extensions for the most frequently called OMIC departments and gives contact information to reach OMIC by mail, fax, and email.

Toll-free numbers also are provided for Medical Risk Management Insurance Services and Marsh Affinity Group Services, which are the contacts for information about Academy- sponsored business insurance and life and health insurance programs.

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Six reasons OMIC is the best choice for ophthalmologists in America.

Consistent return of premium.

Publicly-traded insurance companies exist to make profits for shareholders while physician-owned carriers often return profits to their policyholders. Don’t underestimate this benefit; it can add up to tens of thousands of dollars over the course of your career. OMIC has one of the most generous dividend programs for ophthalmologists and has returned more than $90 Million to our members through dividends.