There are lots of indemnity providers out there for you to choose from. That’s one of the reasons I set up I&I, to make it easier for dentists to compare providers and policies and pick the right one for you.
To help you do that, I caught up with Tom Chaston, one of the founders of All Med Pro, to find out more about the services they offer, his advice for selecting your indemnity policy and how to best deal with a complaint.
Can you tell us how All Med Pro was established and the kinds of services you offer?
Myself and my co-founder Adam O’Keeffe both worked for an insurance provider which had a dental division, which is where we built up our experience and expertise.
We could see the opportunity to do things a little bit differently, so in 2011 we decided to set up on our own and created All Med Pro. Since then, we’ve gone from strength to strength. We now have 12 staff and insure around 4,000 people, mostly dentists who account for around 95% of our customers.
We don’t just offer indemnity, we have other insurance products as well, although that is the majority of our business. Back in 2011 most of the dentists that we supported were those that had been rejected for some reason by the major indemnity providers. However for the last few years we have seen a gradual shift in the industry with more dentists wanting to look outside of the traditional ‘big three’ providers.
How has what you offer to dentists changed over time?
As we’ve kept growing, we’ve constantly been looking at how we can provide greater value to dentists.
We offer risk management courses, hands-on implant courses and CPD to help them keep complaints down to an all-time low. That’s obviously been more of a challenge recently with COVID-19, so we’re now developing verifiable online CPD and webinars.
A key area we focus on with our policyholders is complaints handling and record keeping. There are lots of incidents that could become a complaint, but if they are dealt with well at practice level it needn’t escalate that far.
Having comprehensive records is absolutely key if a claim for negligence leads to a GDC hearing, because they will really hone in on that.
Sometimes if a patient is unhappy with the outcome, even if the dentist hasn’t done anything wrong, they will make a complaint; particularly when it comes to cosmetic dentistry. You can’t control that. But good record keeping and complaints handling is something that is within the dentists’ control and can make such a difference to how that claim progresses. That’s why we offer this additional support.
We also have a team of dentists who work with us in our complaints service. If one of our dental policyholders has a complaint and needs advice from us, they can speak to a fellow peer who’ll talk them through the next steps.
Having those dentists in our team also helps us to identify early on whether the complaint is likely to progress to a claim and how we can best provide a quick and effective resolution.
There are several insurance providers for dentists in the market, why do you think All Med Pro stands out from the rest?
Our value-added services and support, as mentioned above, is a key way we do things differently.
And I believe that we were the first to offer both claims-made and claims-occurring policies, and are one of only a few who continue to do so.
You can also buy our insurance and indemnity policies online via our website, which no one else offers. If there are no referral triggers, if you’re a general dentist with no claims or complaints, your application will go straight through.
We’re always trying to evolve what we do and what we offer, so we’re still developing this functionality to buy your policy online to enhance it even more. COVID-19 has brought everyone even further into the digital field, as dentists have experienced themselves with virtual consultations, so this kind of facility will only continue to grow in importance.
Our aim has been to positively disrupt the market through innovation and offer something different that really benefits dentists.
What key things do dentists need to consider when choosing their professional insurance provider and policy?
One of the good things about more people entering the market is that it, hopefully, makes everyone up their game and creates a more competitive marketplace.
A downside is that you tend to end up with a lot of non-specialists entering the space, which can lead to more misinformation being disseminated. So, I would caution you to make sure you’re speaking to someone who can give you accurate, impartial advice.
Think about who can provide you with a good level of support both when you need to make a claim and in general. If one of our dental policyholders has a complaint made against them or a GDC letter arrive on the doormat, we have a team of around 35 legal advisers, which includes dento-legal advisers that can help, rather than it just going into the black hole of a call centre.
It’s important to choose a provider who will give you transparent advice. At All Med Pro, we have no commercial interest in the policy you choose or whether you pick claims made or claims occurring, so we can be completely impartial.
The choice of insurer you use is important because sometimes there can be a lot of nervousness around their financial resourcing or capability to support you. We do a lot of due diligence with the insurers we partner with, which currently is AXIS Capital, for Indemnity Insurance.
When comparing providers and policies are there any particular terms or clauses that dentists need to pay particular attention to?
Insurers will typically cover you for everything you specifically request cover for, and if they can’t do that then they have to point it out.
Claims-made and claims-occurring are important terms to look out for. Claims-made cover means that you’re only covered for claims that are made while that policy is in force. Once it expires, you’re not covered for any claims made against you – even if they’re for something that happened while the policy was in place.
Claims-occurred cover means that you’re covered for claims arising from treatment provided during the policy term and even if it runs out, you are still covered if it relates to treatment that happened while the policy was in place.
If you choose a claims-made policy, it’s also important to look at whether the run-off cover is given and if so, for how long and in which circumstances cover will be granted as this can vary between policies. Bear in mind that some claims can be first brought against the dentist several years after the policy has expired.
Run-off cover is extra time that you are given on your policy following retirement, paternity/maternity leave, death or a career break. It’s always capped for a number of years, but that can vary between policies. You also need to be aware of which situations are included in your run-off cover as some, such as paternity/maternity, might not be covered.
When it comes to insurance, speak to your provider and find out what the financial solvency of the underlying insurer is. Insurance companies are given a credit rating which signifies their ability to meet their obligations, for example the insurer we use is A+. Make sure you feel confident that your provider is solid enough to be around in the long-term. However, in the unlikely event that an insurance company fails, the Financial Services Compensation Scheme exists to support policyholders.
Dealing with a claim can be a stressful time for a dentist. If a dentist does have a claim made against them, what’s your advice for how best to deal with this?
Call your indemnity provider straight away. Whether you have received a letter of complaint from a patient or you’ve had a letter from a lawyer requesting access to records, as soon as you’re aware of a disgruntled patient you need to talk it through with a dento-legal expert and make sure you’re happy about how to proceed.
If you’ve never had a complaint it can be daunting and scary to receive one, and we do see dentists tempted to write long letters or apologising profusely for something. But if you try and deal with a complaint yourself, you can often end up tying yourself in knots and triggering a claim, which by the time it comes to us will be harder to unpick – especially if you’ve inadvertently admitted liability.
We advise our policyholders to call us immediately if they receive a complaint, that way we can hold their hand and walk them through it.
What are the most common kinds of claims you receive?
When we first launched the claims occurrence policy, we did a lot of research and due diligence around claims patterns. We know that 80 to 90% of the claims we receive happen within 12 months of the treatment, and the most common type of treatment we see claims for are things like crowns, bridges and perio (which accounts for around 25% of our claims).
What impact, if any, has COVID-19 had on the kinds of claims you’ve been dealing with?
Indemnity providers have still been busy because we’ve been covering historic treatment that was carried out pre-pandemic. And at All Med Pro we’ve still been supporting our customers since COVID-19 happened, for example, by offering free policy extensions and monthly Direct Debits.
We have yet to see if any claims will be made in the future from patients who have been unable to access treatment during this time and whether that will mean a potentially higher rate of perio etc.
There is also the possibility that we could see a spike in claims culture as patients who have been made redundant due to the economic impact of the pandemic could be more likely to pursue litigation. That is a concern, not just for healthcare but for insurance more generally. But it’s even more reason for us to work with dentists on complaints handling and stopping them from being made in the first place.