Excerpted from page 42 of the May/June 2021 edition of AOA Focus.
Optometric practice owners are faced with the daily challenges of managing a practice and providing quality patient care. To help take the guesswork out of ensuring a practice is adequately protected against threats such as property damage, malpractice claims and more, Oliver Sowards, program executive for Lockton Affinity—an AOAExcel®-endorsed industry partner—answers questions about insurance options available to practice owners.
What are some insurance products that are available to practice owners?
Doctors of optometry have a variety of insurance options to help protect against malpractice claims, property damage, cybercrime and more. Many practice owners will take out a professional liability insurance policy and a general liability policy or a business-owners insurance policy and may find that they benefit from the additional coverage provided by cyberliability insurance and employment practices liability insurance (EPLI).
How does general liability insurance differ from professional liability and business-owners insurance?
Professional liability insurance, or malpractice insurance, insures doctors in the event they are named in lawsuits regarding services or advice provided to their patients. Professional liability insurance is required by law as well as to participate as a provider for vision plans and insurance companies and reimburses doctors for costs accrued while defending themselves during lawsuits.
General liability insurance covers costs associated with third-party claims of physical injury, property damage, etc. Some examples of general liability claims might include if a patient were to trip on a mat in a practice or a patient’s vehicle being damaged in the practice’s parking lot.
Business-owners insurance is like general liability insurance in that it covers a practice for costs associated with third-party claims. However, business-owners insurance also covers a practice’s property and assets, as well as costs associated with business interruption.
Why should a doctor have both professional liability insurance and business-owners insurance?
As a practice owner, a doctor may consider taking out a professional liability policy in their practice’s name to cover both the practice itself and the doctors working as employees in the event the practice is named in a lawsuit regarding services or advice provided to a patient.
A business-owners policy combines business property insurance with business liability insurance. This will cover a practice for claims of both bodily injury and property damage, all under one policy. A doctor also might consider purchasing a business owners policy if:
- Their practice has a physical location such as a rented office space, store, garage or their own home.
- The practice needs legal protection from unusual circumstances such as a patient slipping and falling while visiting the practice.
- They have assets that could be either damaged or stolen.
Why should a doctor consider cyberliability insurance?
Cyberliability insurance protects the practice owner, their practice and their assets in the event of a cyberattack. As technology has advanced and virtual work has become more prevalent, instances of cybercrime have increased. There are significant costs incurred when a practice falls victim to a cyberattack. These costs include, but are not limited to, forensic costs, notification costs, legal fees, fines and potential loss of income due to business interruption. Any optometry practice that is keeping electronic records on their patients should strongly consider carrying cyberliability insurance, regardless of the size of the practice. Cyberhackers don’t care how big or small a practice is—they care how easy it is to conduct a successful data breach and steal the information stored by the practice.
What does EPLI cover?
EPLI covers businesses against claims by workers that their legal rights as employees of the company have been violated. EPLI provides protection against many kinds of employee lawsuits, including claims of sexual harassment, discrimination and wrongful termination. Any doctor who employs a staff of doctors, opticians, receptionists, etc., as part of their practice should strongly consider purchasing an EPLI policy. Some business-owners policies can add EPLI coverage as an endorsement, but standalone EPLI policies also are available.
How can a doctor make sure their practice is adequately covered?
There are several steps doctors can take to make sure their optometry practice is protected, including assessing potential claims that may arise during the course of business and considering whether those claims are covered under their current policies. Doctors should conduct an annual review of their policies each year prior to renewal to ensure that their practice’s evolving needs are still being met by the coverage provided.
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