Have you ever wondered what type of medico-legal issues your
colleagues grapple with and require urgent advice on? Analysis of calls to our Medico-legal
Advisory Service (MLAS) highlights the subjects physicians contact us on.
Last year, our advisory service received more than 14,000 calls
from specialist members – with over 1,900
coming from physicians. It’s unsurprising the MLAS was rated as our most highly
valued service by members in our 2016 annual member survey.
There were 285 calls per 1000 members to our advisory
service from physicians last year, up 11% on previous years^.
Ruanne Brell, a Medico-legal Advisor with Avant’s MLAS,
suggested the increase in MLAS calls by physician members is partially due to
the increasing complexity of the issues faced in day-to-day practice, increased
patient expectations and the subsequent demands on physicians.
So what are
physicians calling about?
Complaints against physician members are the most common
matter, accounting for 19% of calls. This was followed by medico-legal issues
relating to clinical treatment (13% of calls) and medical records (9% of calls),
calls on the rise
of the topics responsible for driving the increase in calls is medical records.
The frequency of calls from physician members on this matter increased 31%^.
Some of the issues include requests for the release of medical records to patients
and third parties, advice about payment for providing records and reports, and
advice on what doctors should record in their medical notes when a patient has
asked that it isn’t documented.
Disciplinary and informal complaints
The most common reason for physicians calling the MLAS
regarded complaints made
against them, both formally and informally (where the complaint has not been
made to a regulatory authority). These calls increased in frequency by 12%^.
was reflected in our claims data which shows
that 52% of all physician claims related
to complaints made to regulatory authorities, in 2015–16. Last year,
our advisory service received 358 calls from physician members related to complaints,
which was largely driven by disciplinary complaints (227 calls). This trend was
reflected across all specialties with calls relating to complaints about
doctors being the most common issue last year – increasing in frequency by 7%^.
complaints include conduct, performance and health
impairment concerns and commonly relate to dissatisfaction with treatment outcomes and
communication issues for physician members.
‘In our experience, if given the opportunity, addressing a direct
patient complaint promptly can resolve many concerns before they are escalated
to the relevant authority,’ Ms Brell said.
in calls related to coronial matters
Calls to our advisory service from physician members regarding
coronial matters accounted for the largest percentage increase in calls, up 55%.^
These calls could include queries about whether a death is reportable to
the coroner to requests for formal statements for coronial inquest.
To help manage the difficult situations
physicians may face, we have a wealth of useful information on our website. Download
our When patients complain handbook for information on how to deal with and resolve patient
For more information on open disclosurecomplete our eLearning course or download
our factsheet Open disclosure: how to say sorry.
your responsibilities – read our factsheet Providing medical records to a
Doctors can find information on many of the issues
members call us about on our website. Our MLAS can be contacted via email firstname.lastname@example.org or if you require immediate advice, call 1800 128 268.
Our advisory line is staffed by a dedicated team of medical advisors,
solicitors and claims managers to provide members with personalised support –
available 24/7 in emergencies. In response to the increased calls from members,
we have expanded our advisory service to have more experts dedicated to
providing advice and support across our state offices. They are part of the
largest medico-legal team of any MDO in Australia.
^The increase is
for 2016 over the average of the past three years.
What do you think is driving our MLAS call trends?
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comments and we would love to know what factors you think are responsible for
driving the call trends highlighted in this article. Contact the email@example.com with your thoughts.
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