The healthcare industry is America’s largest employer, responsible for treating millions of Americans. But as the healthcare industry grows and evolves, so, too, do the risks that threaten doctors, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities and organizations across the country.
Understanding and identifying the top 6 emerging risks in healthcare can protect your practice from costly litigation, loss of personnel, and even injuries to patients and staff.
The increased use of technology in healthcare has made the industry a tantalizing target for cybercrime. In fact, the healthcare industry experiences twice as many cyber attacks as other industries.
Patient information kept on-file is often voluminous. Medical identity fraud is also difficult to detect — at least until it’s too late. Data breaches can result in settlements of upwards of $115 million, the settlement paid by Anthem for a 2015 data breach that exposed the records of 79 million people.
It doesn’t appear as if cyber threats to healthcare will decrease in the near future, either. A growing “Internet of Things” increases thieves’ opportunity “to steal the medical records they contain or to extort ransom payments.”
Fighting Cybercrime in the Healthcare Industry
It’s impossible to totally nullify the threat of cybercrime toward the healthcare industry. Thankfully, though, there are a number of ways to protect and safeguard your data:
- Train your staff on cybersecurity best practices (like identifying “phishing” emails)
- Update your systems and software
- Control access to sensitive information
- Use secure passwords and change them often
- Implement effective data hygiene practices
Furthermore, cyber liability insurance will help protect your organization in the event of a data breach. Cyber insurance coverage will assist with:
- Hiring a privacy attorney
- Conducting an IT forensic investigation
- Ensuring compliance with state notification laws
- Providing credit monitoring for affected individuals
- Hiring a PR firm to manage the crisis
- And paying for:
- Expenses incurred by the interruption to your business
- Regulatory Fines
- And any resulting class-action lawsuits
2. Workplace Violence
The healthcare industry is one of service and healing, yet a 2015 report released by OSHA cites widespread violence in medical facilities. On average, instances of violence in healthcare were four times more likely than in private industry.
Workplace violence, including physical and verbal assaults, results in the cost of treating victims and covering lost wages. Litigation may even result from an incident of workplace violence, leading to a costly legal battle.
How to Protect Against Violence in the Healthcare Industry
OSHA recommends establishing and enforcing a zero-tolerance policy as one of the best methods for limiting workplace violence. Other protections include:
- Limiting access to areas of the building
- Hiring armed security guards and off-duty police officers
- Reducing stressors, like crowding and waiting
- Training and using de-escalation techniques
- Performing active shooter drills
In addition, a robust workers’ compensation insurance policy will ease the financial burden imposed by an incident of workplace violence. Workers’ compensation will provide:
- Claims management
- Payment for medical bills, lost wages, and funeral expenses
- Court costs
- OSHA-compliant monitoring and recordkeeping
3. Environmental Hazards
Medical facilities are often home to environmental hazards and pollutants, which can endanger staff and patients alike. During this decade alone, $200 billion is being spent to build and renovate hospitals.
Renovation can lead to an outbreak of mold, bacteria, or viruses or the spreading of dust and fumes. These risks pose a significant threat not only to staff but also to patients, especially those with weakened or compromised immune systems.
Preventing Exposure to Environmental Hazards
The Environmental Protection Agency has compiled a booklet for diagnosing and combating air pollutants in healthcare settings. Though you should attempt to limit exposure to environmental hazards, environmental liability insurance can further protect your business.
Environmental liability insurance helps you adhere to government and regulatory requirements. It extends protection to first- and third-parties and protects patients, staff, and others from the impact of the environmental hazards unique to the healthcare industry.
4. Malpractice and Negligence
Malpractice can have devastating effects on a healthcare facility’s finances, not to mention the life of an affected patient. You may be found liable for malpractice for forgetting to follow up with a patient or operating on the wrong part of a patient’s body. Such accidents — or willful negligence — may result in litigation, with costs rising to hundreds of millions of dollars.
Limiting the Financial Impact Borne by Claims of Malpractice
Professional liability insurance, or errors and omissions insurance, is liability insurance aimed at professionals, including those in the healthcare industry. It’s designed to protect you from being held personally liable for allegations of breach of contract, misrepresentation, or wrongful business practices.
Professional liability insurance eases the financial burden of legal litigation when claims of malpractice are made against you.
5. Employment Practices
Over 13 million people work in the healthcare industry. It’s a diverse group comprised of people who vary in age, gender, heritage, nationality, religion, sexual orientation, and more.
Unfortunately, claims of sexual harassment are not unique to Hollywood, with 3,085 hospital employees alleging sexual harassment between 1995 and 2016.
Sexual harassment isn’t the only poor employment practice threatening the healthcare industry, either. Discrimination, wrongful termination, and retaliation are all valid reasons for filing a claim against a healthcare employer.
Defending your business from such claims can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, leading many to settle rather than face a lengthy and expensive legal process.
Protecting Your Healthcare Business from Claims of Unlawful Employment Practices
As the old saying goes, the best defense is a good offense. Take steps to train and inform your staff about ways to avoid discriminating against and harassing fellow employees.
Employment practices liability insurance will absorb or reimburse you for the cost of defending against a claim of harassment, discrimination, wrongful termination, or retaliation. Employment practices liability coverage will also pay for settlements up to your coverage limits and after your deductible has been met.
6. General Liability
All businesses are liable for bodily and property damage incurred while on the premises, and those in the healthcare industry are not exempt. Accidents happen regardless of industry or locale. A patient can easily slip and fall, breaking a leg, or have property damaged by someone in your employ.
Insuring Your Business from Liability
General liability insurance is a safety net that pays for the medical or property expenses incurred by someone while on your premises. It protects you from costly medical bills or repair or replacement costs.
Additionally, if an injured party decides to sue you, general liability coverage will pay the legal costs of defending you, including any judgments or settlements.
Mitigate Emerging Risks in Healthcare to Continue to Care for Your Patients
Protecting your healthcare practice allows you to continue to care for your patients and remain in business. Establish a proactive means of mitigating the emerging risks that threaten your practice. Implement training routines and protocols that protect your business and keep it financially afloat, even in the face of unavoidable perils.
Consult a talented insurance broker, like those at Gallo|Thomas, to custom-tailor an insurance solution that alleviates the emerging risks in healthcare. A tailored risk management solution can ensure your healthcare practice can continue serving your community and those that need your services.