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Reduce Medical Laboratory General Liability Insurance

Updated on November 27, 2009
Medical laboratory liability
Medical laboratory liability

Medical laboratories obtain samples of human tissue and body fluids from patients and perform analytical tests to provide physicians data on which to base diagnoses and treatment of disease. Some laboratories also specialize in testing services that may involve the use of radioactive materials. Large labs can process hundreds of thousands of samples in a single year and have thousands of patients pass through their offices and procedures rooms.

With so many people and so many potentially hazardous specimens moving through your facility it is important that you develop a solid general liability loss control program. This article will provide some basic steps you can build on to help reduce your general liability claims.

  • Inspect the condition of your reception area, waiting room, and procedure/collection/ testing areas daily. Focus on identifying slip and fall hazards. Remember that many patients coming through your facility are elderly, in poor health, worried about symptoms of disease, or in pain. They may be distracted and upset. You want to ensure that floors, carpets, pathways, steps, and stairs are clean and clear of tripping hazards, are slip-resistant, and in good repair. Ensure that you have enough chairs so people can sit while they wait, and that chairs are in good condition. Make waiting rooms as pleasant and soothing as possible; ensure there is enough room so people are not crowded, which contributes to stress.

  • Design collection stations and treatment rooms so that patient privacy is protected. Panels between open blood-draw stations are usually enough; as are standard restroom facilities for collecting urine samples. For more invasive procedures, such as tissue biopsy, patients should be afforded the privacy of a closed room.

Biohazard bag
Biohazard bag
  • Implement a written infection control plan. Include protocols for daily cleaning and of all collection and testing rooms and sterilization of equipment. Establish parameters for your employees, especially medical laboratory technicians who are engaged in specimen collection and work directly with the public, for limiting infections. Employees who are ill, such as having a cold, should not be allowed to work with the public until their symptoms are over. Consider having all employees, including receptionists, wear surgical masks to limit spread of airborne virus.

  • Establish a written procedure to ensure confidential test results. Results should never be released to anyone other than the treating physician unless a special patient waiver is signed. If you release data through electronic means (such as email), tamper proof systems are imperative. Include a warning with each emails that data is not secure and that “hard copy” reports are the final authority for test results. If you release data on CD ROM or other portable formats, ensure that it is write protected so recipients can only read the data.

  • Ensure that you follow proper procedures for the disposal of contaminated wastes, including specimens, needles, syringes, scalpels, and bandages. Sharps should always be placed in puncture proof containers for disposal. See Resources below for my article on How to Control Environmental Pollution Risks in a Hospital, which describes methods proper handling biohazardous waste. Such wastes, especially potentially infectious human tissue samples, must be disposed of following mandated guidelines. Only a fully licensed hazardous waste hauler may remove and dispose of biohazards. Make sure you have a written contract with the hauler that includes a hold-harmless agreement in your favor and that the hauler has pollution liability insurance with limits of at least $1 million. Obtain the hauler’s certificate of insurance.

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