Canadian Underwriter

Paid Helping Care Sector clients manage abuse liability through virtual service delivery

October 1, 2021   by Markel Insurance Canada

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Delivering Care services virtually has become a necessity. Are your clients rethinking the technologies and strategies they employ to manage abuse liability risk?

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Care Sector has had to rethink the way it adopts technologies to deliver services virtually – and with that, how to manage associated risks amidst a rise in abuse liability claims.

For a sector built entirely on human interaction and connection to secure trust, health and safety of patients, integrating technology to deliver the same level of service is critical. It also comes with its own set of new exposures, says Andrew Poulton, Assistant Vice-President, Sectors, at Markel Insurance Canada.

“Before the pandemic, social care services like counselling, drug or alcohol rehabilitation and emotional support groups were mainly delivered in person,” Poulton says. “The pandemic has, however, necessitated virtual service delivery and the use of platforms like Zoom, MS Teams and video calling have become a lot more frequent as the sector pivoted towards hybrid and virtual models of service delivery.”

However, things aren’t as simple as merely switching to video, he adds.

Companies not only need to be selective and diligent about choosing the right digital platform to deliver services, but consider the risks associated with the safety, security and emotional and mental health of patients, with abuse liability risk being the most prevalent in a virtual setting.

“There’s a common misconception that abuse liability is triggered by a physical act. In fact, it can be triggered by the mental or emotional anguish of a patient,” Poulton says. “There’s been a significant spike in the prevalence of mental or emotional abuse incidents and allegations in the virtual care space, where it’s not always easy to control the security of the virtual environment and monitor behaviour of those delivering or accessing services within these platforms.”

While from a coverage perspective, the sector has experienced a reduction in appetite and coverage limits on abuse protection, Markel’s social care insurance program, Markel Care, sees this as an integral need for organisations.

What to tell clients

Brokers need to advise their clients that abuse risk management should remain key to mitigating exposures and safeguarding patients in a virtual setting, whether it’s over the phone or a meeting platform, says Meenu Nair, Markel’s Care Sector Manager.

“It’s also critical for organisations to do their due diligence on the platform they choose to deliver virtual services,” Nair says. “Selecting a platform that’s appropriate for the type of virtual services being delivered and that offers robust security features will help address related privacy and potential abuse risk. Staff need to also be aware of the security features and how to use them.”

Markel Care provides embedded risk management support that helps clients assess their services, licensing requirements, tools, platforms or portals chosen for virtual service delivery. “For example,” says Nair, “We’d look at secure access of meetings, passwords, email correspondence and private virtual interactions.”

This careful evaluation is the first step in mitigating risk and helping ensure the technology chosen is safe and secure.

In addition to tech risk mitigation, Markel Care helps clients adapt their risk management practices and standards of conduct of their employee care professionals within virtual meetings to reduce liability.

It’s important for staff to know the limitations of virtual services, Poulton says, and how to manage “any sort of challenging situations that may arise online and what the expectations for virtual interaction and participation should be”.

“Markel Care goes beyond insurance to help brokers get their customers the right protection, improve how they operate, manage associated risks and save costs, especially in these uncertain times,” Poulton concludes.


*For more information and to learn how Markel Care can help your customers get the right protection and risk management support for their unique needs, visit Markel Care.