Policyholder Services

I would like to have former surgical patients serve as volunteers to mentor and assist current patients undergoing similar procedures. Do we have coverage for this?

OMIC’s policy includes “volunteer employees” within its definition of employee; however, coverage is limited to services rendered within the scope of the employee’s training, licensure, and employment. In addition, the claim must result from injury to a patient because of a professional services incident arising from direct patient treatment provided. Whether your policy would respond to a particular claim would depend upon the allegation and the facts of the case. If, for example, the mentor was responsible for escorting the patient from the exam room to the surgical suite and a claim for negligent supervision or similar allegation were filed as a result of injury sustained from a fall, OMIC most likely would extend coverage to the mentor.

If the volunteers work in a purely non-medical capacity, only providing emotional support and sharing their personal experiences, the liability exposure should be minimal. Because of their lack of clinical training, mentors generally should not provide any medical advice or render any type of medical services, and the practice must be careful that the mentors do not violate any scope of practice issues. OMIC will not cover liability arising from the unlicensed practice of medicine. It would be prudent that the practice hold training sessions with each mentor, educating them regarding their role and clearly defining what they can and should not do. (For example, the mentors should not share their opinions as to whether the patient should undergo a particular procedure or which type of lens implant they should select as this could be viewed as providing medical advice for which they are neither trained nor licensed to give.) In addition, the mentors must be appropriately trained regarding HIPAA and related confidentiality issues and, if present in the OR, in universal precautions. Furthermore, the practice should use care in how they present the mentor to the patients, explaining the capacity in which the mentor will be involved.

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