Risk Management

Message from the Chairman

In this issue of the Digest, we review the patient safety and professional liability risks that arise when care is coordinated with optometrists and provide suggestions for minimizing these risks. OMIC’s concern comes from the fact that we provide direct professional liability coverage to some 300 optometrists employed

by OMIC insured ophthalmologists and cover vicarious liability exposure for approximately 35% of OMIC’s 4,200 insureds who employ or contract with an optometrist.

OMIC believes that ophthalmologists and optometrists generally work well together to the benefit of patients. However, to maximize patient safety and minimize professional liability risks arising from MD/OD collaboration, we strongly recommend that the optometrist’s role be defined in terms of conditions he or she can manage independently, conditions requiring consultation with an ophthalmologist, and conditions requiring management by an ophthalmologist. To assist our insureds, OMIC has developed comprehensive risk management guidelines and protocols recently published as “Coordinating Care with Optometrists.” With these risk management guidelines, ophthalmologists will be able to develop written policies and procedures in compliance with their respective state laws and other office policies. This document may be found at www.omic.com/resources/risk_man/ recommend.cfm.

OMIC regularly reviews and updates its underwriting requirements and risk management guidelines to keep current with changes in the education and scope of practice of optometrists. Areas of concern recently addressed by OMIC and described in the coordinating care document are risks that arise when optometrists are involved in after-hours care and ER coverage. These risks are increasing as more ophthalmology practices expect their employed or contracted optometrists to see patients after-hours and triage calls from the ER. The practice must have a protocol in place to address situations that optometrists cannot handle independently. If a practice is in a call group, it must also determine whether the other practices in the call group have their own employed/ contracted optometrists taking call. If so, it is important that these practices also have a protocol in place to address the role of optometrists on call.

As coordination of care with optometrists increases, we want our policyholders to know that OMIC is supportive of comanagement so long as it is in the best interests of the patient and is carried out in a manner that minimizes unnecessary exposure to claims.

Richard L. Abbott, MD OMIC Chairman of the Board

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