Teleradiology and telemedicine have increasingly become more popular as more and more hospitals and independent imaging centers have begun to outsource their radiology work to independent practitioners. These practitioners operate from remote locations, with some based in the same city but many based in distant states or even overseas.
Telemedicine has advantages for hospitals, doctors and healthcare consumers alike:
- Hospitals are able delegate the excess work effectively, thus cutting costs involved in hiring a full-time radiologist or investing in new equipment.
- A whole new revenue stream opens up for radiologists and other practitioners, who have ample opportunity to take on freelance work, fill down-time and augment their income.
- Since telemedicine practitioners may be located in different states, countries and time zones, it is possible to arrange for 24/7 remote coverage of emergency reads, ultrasounds, ICU monitoring and other types of telemedicine services.
- Shortage of qualified and competent radiologists is no longer a barrier to optimum healthcare delivery.
Because of these clear advantages, many radiology and other specialty practice groups are experiencing explosive growth in their teleradiology and telemedicine sectors of their business. In 2012, one large telemedicine company had growth of 19% in 2012 over 2011.
Telemedicine programs provide diagnostic and clinical medical services to urgent care facilities, hospitals, trauma centers, imaging centers, mobile imaging units, jails, nursing homes, corporate health departments, and outpatient medical facilities.
As many physician practices enter into this dynamic field, they will find that their current malpractice carrier and the insurance coverage they offer cannot provide them with the pricing and coverage flexibility they will need.
The most common problems encountered will include:
- Inability to cover reads that come from states outside of where the practice is located.
- Lack of premium pricing flexibility to base premium on exposures (number of reads or revenue).
- Lack of portability of coverage and “tail” issues for departing physicians.
- Inflexibility in underwriting requirements for pre-approval of new or last minute physicians reading for the group.
Any one of these issues can trigger the need to seek alternative coverage tailored for these exposures. Physicians in this specialty will need to recognize their changing medical malpractice insurance needs and with the help of their brokers, find insurance coverage that is designed for these types of practices and exposures.