Operators in the long-term care arena recognize that attracting qualified talent is a necessary component in the overarching goal of providing residents with the best care possible. This holds true for any successful enterprise. But we must be careful that in our zest to hire or contract with the best and most skilled caregivers and consultants that we don’t promise them insurance protections that they’re either not entitled to or are outside the scope of what we can offer. In a nursing home setting, this issue seems to be prevalent regarding the facility’s medical director.

In most instances, the medical director is hired as an independent contractor and is not a direct employee of the facility. However, during the hiring process, the issue of liability protection for the medical director candidate routinely surfaces. It’s important to recognize that most professional liability policies offer certain protections to a medical director but with finite restrictions and under specific circumstances. Keep in mind that every policy is different, and before contracting with a medical director, you should consult your policy and insurance broker to determine the exact parameters of coverage.

The general rule is that the medical director doesn’t have any direct care with the patient. Their job description entails consulting, establishing protocols for the caregivers to follow, etc. This distinction is of supreme importance regarding liability coverage. Most insurance carriers expect that a doctor will carry their own medical malpractice insurance according to the laws, statutes and medical boards governing the state where they are practicing. Where it gets murky is when the medical malpractice carrier doesn’t want to cover the individual when contracted for work in your facility. In that case, the medical director candidate will request that the facility covers them so they’re not without coverage.

Most policies will allow coverage only for work that is done in the facility under their capacity as medical director. Any work outside of the facility or inside the facility that’s direct care will most likely not be covered and their medical malpractice needs to provide protection.

This distinction is very important to clarify to any current and potential medical director. One should take special precaution if the medical director has personal patients at the facility. In essence, the medical director is wearing two hats and depending which hat is on will determine the carrier that will ultimately be responsible should a claim arise.

So, what should you do? Hire a medical director that’ll be great for your facility, and after consulting with your insurance broker, explain to them that they’re protected with your liability policy. Always make sure to reiterate the boundaries of that protection because it is by no means limitless.

Check out our senior living services for more ways our practice can minimize risk while maximizing health for your nursing homes or senior living communities.

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