Ex-RJW partner bids to “reinvent” medical reports process by separating procurement from diagnosis

Tulk: CMCs left in the cold

A former Russell Jones & Walker partner is bidding to “reinvent” the medico-legal process in low-value personal injury claims with a new service that will “redress the imbalance which predisposes evidence to favour the instructing party”.

iSaaS Technology, co-founded by Adam Tulk, is working with the Association of Personal Injury Reporting Experts (ASPIREX), a new independent grouping of doctors working in the field.

The launch of ‘ePIsource Legal’ comes ahead of the Ministry of Justice consultation on whiplash, which will consider introducing independent medical panels to replace the current assessment of whiplash injuries either by GPs or by doctors employed by medical reporting organisations (MROs).

The new service uses web-based technology to support the administrative function carried out by MROs, separating the evidence procurement process from the expert analysis.

It effectively enables law firms to take on the administrative function of an MRO, using ePIsource Legal’s 4,000-strong medical expert panel, and make a profit from doing so if it is efficiently run.

This panel will be guided by ASPIREX, a non-profit independent association and the first of its kind for doctors doing this kind of work. It requires doctor members to submit to randomised peer review and continuous professional development through well-known expert witness training organisation Bond Solon.

iSaaS argues that MROs and the experts on their panels are too close to the instructing parties. “Current practices for obtaining whiplash medical reports can lead to allegations of biased, poor quality evidence, driven by the fact that medical experts have become reliant on MROs for their livelihood and MROs have a commercial relationship with the instructing party.

“These interdependencies can impact not only on the selection and training of experts, but also on the time available to the medical expert to produce high-quality forensic evidence. This combination significantly impacts the effectiveness of whiplash medical reports.”

iSaaS has worked with regulatory specialists from national law firm Weightmans to ensure ePISource Legal is compliant with both the upcoming ban on referral fees – which will cover the instruction of medical experts – and the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s Code of Conduct. Accountancy firm Baker Tilly has also assisted in its development.

Mr Tulk said that under outcomes-focused regulation, law firms are now responsible for the “entire customer experience”, and report that MROs are the “weak link”.

He acknowledged that MROs perform “an important role in administering and improving efficiency in the acquisition of medical evidence”, but said the link between the instructing party and the expert panel must be severed. “It is not the role of the MRO to be training, peer reviewing or selecting the medical expert panel. Any attempt to do so by MROs, or their trade body, will simply perpetuate the potential for bias because of the obvious commercial interests at play.”

The service leaves claims management companies that currently receive commissions for using particular MROs “in the cold”, Mr Tulk said; it is already processing 3,000 reports a month. Down the line he raised the possibility of the ‘blind’ instruction of experts to add to the sense of independence. iSaaS was co-founded by Dr David Pearce, a former chairman of the Association of Medical Reporting Organisations.

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