How do you protect your clients and your center? According to Ron Zimmet, an attorney and general counsel to Mental Health Risk Retention Group, Inc. (MHRRG), the first step is to realize that the two goals are really one in the same. "Protecting the patientis protecting your center," Zimmet told attendees Tuesday morning during his workshop session on "Quality Assurance, Risk Management and Insurance." At the 2011 National Council Conference & Expo, Zimmet asked the crowded room what risk management "meant" to them. He suggested first asking themselves the following three questions:
- How are my patients injured?
- What am I not doing now that can prevent it?
- What can I do to protect my patients and the center?
Zimmet explained how he has reviewed countless lawsuits to determine how consumers are getting injured. "There aren't any new lawsuits," he pointed out. "There is a pattern." There are several things mental health centers can do to protect patients, but according to Zimmet, the top five things behavioral health center need to have are:
- A structured risk assessment and training
- A zero-tolerance sexual misconduct program.
- An on-call consultation team.
- A process to utilize a client's friends and family.
- The right insurance.
When it comes to having the right insurance, Zimmet suggests considering asking the following questions:
- How much should we buy?
- Will the company pay in our best interest?
- Is my insurance application complete?
- Which company should I choose?
"A policy is more than just words," noted Zimmet. "Claims adjusters have the experience and expertise to understand your business." The most important question to ask, according to Zimmet: What am I buying? In fact, that's the one question he said "I don't think most people know how to answer." "All policies are different in more than just price," Zimmet said. "Understand the declarations, price, deductibles, limits, and sublimits." Coverage is really the sum of three things, Zimmet explained: the insurance agreement, the definition, and the exclusions.
"When you take all those factors into account, then you can know what you're buying," he said.