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Inside Medical Liability

Fourth Quarter 2020




Predicting the Future

“Data and information gathered throughout the past year and in the months ahead will be vital in order to educate and inform the arbiters of future litigation."



As we near the end of 2020—a year that we are all anxious to leave behind—the world, the U.S., and the MPL community are continuing to adapt to the evolving circumstances around us while simultaneously trying to understand the long-term impact of the pandemic.

Preparing for the future at the conclusion of a year that’s been such an anomaly is a fascinating undertaking. The business of insurance is dependent on the work of actuaries who essentially drive forward while looking in the rearview mirror; that is the nature of underwriting and insuring risk. And while 2020 may have been highly irregular, there are lessons that can be applied to the future.

It is difficult to underestimate the importance of data. It’s what virtually every successful company and industry depends on for their most critical business decisions. The impact of this virus will challenge even the greatest data analysts and futurists to truly understand the impact on claims, those who deliver care, and the institutions and companies that insure them. There is currently no consensus as to whether there will be a slow, steady stream of claims arising from the pandemic or there will be a tsunami. Unlike the aftermath of natural disasters that are confined to regions of the country, this is a conundrum facing every MPL organization in every country around the world.

Data and information gathered throughout the past year and in the months ahead will be vital in order to educate and inform the arbiters of future litigation. Will clinicians, institutions, and the attorneys defending them be able to recreate for judge and jury the circumstances at a specific date and time, and the appropriate standard of care in an individual facility in a particular jurisdiction? What scenario led to a delayed diagnosis? What conditions resulted in a postponed biopsy? Were conditions in an area influenced by guidance from the Centers for Disease Control, statewide executive orders, or other respected clinical or governmental authorities? With the clinical and legal environments changing by the month, week, or even day between mid-March and today, data and documentation will be key for the doctors, dentists, nurses, hospitals, and all those facing claims in the months and years ahead.

This community has long known the value of data. In fact, 35 years ago this year, the Physician Insurers Association of America (PIAA), now the MPL Association, launched a major effort to establish a database for members to not only track their own MPL claims data but to also compare it to a larger national subset. Over the years, the MPL Association’s Data Sharing Project (DSP) has built one of the largest and most comprehensive databases of closed claims available in the U.S. Through the tremendous efforts of the DSP team led by Divya Parikh, vice president of research and education, and the Data Sharing Advisory Committee, the capabilities of the database have expanded into analysis of new risk areas in healthcare including hospital and health system liability, new tools and dashboards for advanced independent analytics, and the potential for international MPL claims inclusion. In fact, through involvement in the DSP, participating companies are readily prepared to collect MPL data on impending claims resulting from the impact of the current pandemic.

“Continuous improvement” is an essential edict for any organization intent on providing value in the future. It is in this spirit that the Board of Directors has launched a new strategic planning process that will chart the Association’s direction in the years ahead. Your input is critical in this process to ensure priorities, needs, and preferences are included in the strategic plan that will be presented at the Annual Conference in Austin in May. If you have any questions or comments regarding strategic planning or the Association and its priorities, I would be pleased to hear from you at