The Government’s scheme for independent whiplash diagnosis came into force last year in April and recent changes have been made already to the scheme which is indicative of the Government’s intentions that it is here to stay.
The recent changes required were obvious because business models developed which abused the system. The large medical reporting organisations (MROs) fought for their market share of their pre MedCo days by setting up numerous shell companies. Even some unscrupulous practices by solicitors found ways to select certain specific experts. All of these practices subvert the Government’s intention to introduce greater independence in medical reporting and will now quite rightly be stopped.
An MRO must now be truly independent, properly staffed and resourced and perhaps most obviously arrange the appointments and perform the functions you would expect an MRO to do. They can’t simply outsource that elsewhere anymore. However, this will not stop the large agencies potentially setting up completely independent companies to increase market share legitimately. We will have to wait and see what happens but the changes are a step in the right direction.
The qualifying criteria will restrict the number of both the large Tier 1 and Tier 2 organisations. This, coupled with a higher search return of results (a choice of one from two Tier 1’s or one from ten Tier 2’s) should ensure a fair spread of the work.
Whilst the changes will stop some abuses to the system, insurers are still able to completely circumvent MedCo by making pre medical offers. That practice needs to stop to give MedCo the best chance of working.
MedCo, in my opinion, should concentrate on improving the quality of the panel experts/MROs, quality of reports, independence (ensuring instructions are not linked to financial arrangements) and use the MI it has to proactively spot any patterns and abuses and address them. Completed and accurate data must be uploaded by MROs in a timely fashion with sanctions for failure to do so for this to work.
However, I think independence can be preserved without ‘randomisation’. If there are to be no financial links, I don’t see why a solicitor can’t choose their preferred MRO. They are independent, they have to provide MI, and their experts are all accredited. Customer journey also has to be considered in the process and firms do link IT systems to improve communication between each other.
In an ideal world these recent changes should, however, result in tangible improvements to the quality of medico-legal reports. I certainly hope so – but only time will tell.