Is Administrative Staff Covered by Medical Malpractice Insurance?

September 21, 2021 •

A spectrum of medical tasks can lead to negligence that causes patient harm, from a physician’s misdiagnosis to mislabeled medication. Administrative staff can even be found liable due to the diverse nature of their work. This makes malpractice insurance (also known as professional liability) a necessity for all team members, even if a patient lawsuit initially seems unlikely.

Is Administrative Staff Covered by Medical Malpractice Insurance?

A malpractice plan provides coverage for those listed directly on the policy. This is usually, but not always, every employee within the facility, including:

  • Physicians and surgeons
  • Nurses, nurse practitioners, and CNAs
  • Interns and medical students
  • EMTs
  • Technologists
  • Counselors and clinical social workers

Learn the Policy’s Details

The only way to know if administrative assistants and other support staff are covered by a policy is to ask. It’s important to understand the precise nature of a policy so you know if you’re protected in malpractice claims. Keep in mind you may need additional protection beyond that provided by a hospital or clinic – some policies are written so that protection extends only to the facility itself.

A practice may also require employees to carry their own individual coverage on top of the company’s policy. This might seem redundant, but it serves to protect both parties. If a facility’s policy proves inadequate for covering both the hospital and employee, an individual policy can be highly beneficial.

Contract Employees

Medical employers rarely provide malpractice coverage for contract employees. Because employees and independent contractors face different liability risks, it’s important contractors have their own malpractice coverage. For instance, a hospital may be sued for the actions of an independent contractor, but both may be financially responsible for any monies awarded to the patient.

Why Administrative Staff Needs Malpractice Coverage

You might be reading this and thinking an administrative assistant or other support team member would never be named in a malpractice suit. Unfortunately, this simply isn’t true. Office staff has access to a wealth of private patient data in their day-to-day duties, such as:

  • Filing insurance claims
  • Patient scheduling
  • Medical transcription
  • Charting
  • Billing
  • Accounting

These activities demand increased levels of accountability and confidentiality. If a support staff member erroneously misplaces or shares patient information, a high risk for negligence claims arises. Office assistants can also be named in malpractice lawsuits simply by being in a patient’s room or serving as a liaison between providers and patients.

A Cautionary Tale

To help you fully understand the risks faced by clinical staff, consider a 2015 case in Georgia. A front-desk person was found liable for negligence after she failed to communicate to doctors a patient’s complaints. The Court further determined the plaintiff could sue the clinic and employee for a statutory violation. The assistant provided the patient with medical advice over the phone, violating a state statute that prohibits the practice of medicine without a license.

What exactly did the assistant do? She took a phone call from a patient, listened to her symptoms, and suggested the patient had a urinary tract infection. She didn’t speak to any other staff members about the patient, and because the patient was denied crucial medical attention, she later developed a life-threatening complication. This is simply one case of many showing why support staff needs to be named in a malpractice policy.

Overlapping Responsibilities

In a small office, it’s not unusual for medical assistants and front desk personnel to have overlapping responsibilities. To illustrate, both may input patient information and sterilize medical equipment.

Cleaning instruments may sound like a simple enough task, but standards are often developed by government agencies like the AOAC and FDA. These procedures are then filtered down to medical staff who are expected to follow them as instructed. If a breach occurs and a patient falls ill from improperly cleaned equipment, all staff members may be held responsible in a malpractice suit.

Clinical Liability

A policy covering front desk staff protects those employees explicitly and also ensures protection for the clinic or hospital. A facility can be found negligent for a number of issues, including failing to terminate incompetent or unsafe employees. Additional instances when a facility may be sued by a patient include:

  • Failing to establish proper safety protocols for tasks like employee hand washing and sanitation
  • Failing to keep up with new medical regulations and developments
  • Failing to properly train employees so they understand medication labeling and patient confidentiality

At this point, you likely understand the best protection against a malpractice or negligence suit is the right insurance. Working in a clinical environment increases your risk for liability in a number of ways, from handling patient data to caring for instruments. Even if your employer has an existing malpractice policy, you may not be named as a covered staff member. If you are named, it’s important to understand the exact level of protection provided to you.

At NOW Insurance, we specialize in simple, fast, and affordable insurance coverage. Learn more about professional liability for all healthcare providers, including support staff and therapists.

You can also receive a quote in less than three minutes by completing our easy online application.

Contact us with any questions regarding coverage or policy types.