Records at Risk: Health Fields Face New Liability

Article excerpt

A new insurable risk has arrived for medical professionals.

With the advent of electronic health records and stricter privacy requirements, physicians are facing brand-new ways that security could be breached. Doctors in Oklahoma are being offered a new type of insurance to cover those concerns, as well as issues that haven't even arisen yet.

"We wanted to help protect the doctors we insure against a new, rising liability that they may not even be aware of," said Dr. Carl Hook, president and chief executive officer of Physicians Liability Insurance Co. (PLICO), which insures nearly 3,000 Oklahoma medical professionals and whose state domicile is owned by the Oklahoma State Medical Association.

Last year, the federal HITECH Act (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health) toughened requirements concerning information breaches and other data covered by HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act).

As more physicians install electronic health record systems, and exchanges are created so that systems can "talk" to one another, the potential for missteps will increase, Hook said. HIPAA problems are already present - such as doctors' staffs leaving clipboards of information out for other patients to see - and Hook said cyber- breaches create a whole new set of problems.

To help, PLICO is offering $50,000 worth of coverage, for free, to physicians it already insures. The insurance covers problems that can result from HIPAA violations, security breaches associated with new technology and the fines that may result from government audits. The new coverage is called PLICO Cyber ProTech.

Medical Protective, a company that insures 1,850 physicians in Oklahoma, also will begin offering cyber-liability coverage - called MedPro CyberShield - on Feb. 1, said Nancy Stahulak, vice president of marketing. Its coverage also is free up to $50,000, she said.

"It covers both paper and electronic records, but as more physician offices are going toward electronic, this has been a concern," Stahulak said.

Hook said that because the coverage is free, it also should serve as an educational tool for physicians who need to get up to speed on today's privacy and security issues.

"There are issues out there that doctors don't even know they're at risk for," Hook said. "The only thing they've been aware of for decades and decades is medical malpractice insurance, and that's what our company is. But it's also one of our jobs to look out for the doctors' well-being. We know that with electronic health records, plaintiff lawyers have been holding seminars for the last couple of years educating their membership on what to look for in finding areas of liability breaches. …