MedCo beefs up ethics guidance for medical agencies

MedCo: Ethical guidance

MedCo has stepped up its efforts to ensure that medical reporting organisations (MROs) act ethically by beefing up the guidance to help them recognise and identify ethical issues.

It highlighted the importance of MROs reporting clients’ unethical behavior, such as where a solicitor has instructed the expert before sending the instruction to the MRO and the MRO allows this to occur and processes the resultant report as normal.

The updated guidance on MoJ qualifying criteria assists MROs with interpreting the criteria set down by the government for MROs that want to be on the MedCo system.

Examples of scenarios where an MRO “should be alert to potential ethical issues”, newly added to this version, include circumventing the MedCo portal, accepting or potentially accepting referral fees, and failing to conduct trend analysis and identify suspicious patterns of behaviour amongst its experts and/or clients’ instructions.

Another indicator was receiving report amendment requests that affect the prognosis or prognosis period “in sufficient numbers or patterns that indicate concerns about the potential for reports being amended without good cause”.

The guidance flagged up potential problems for MROs that benefit from referral work where “there is a noticeable incidence of its reports containing referral recommendations with no clear or obvious need for referral”.

Receiving reports “ostensibly produced by experts but actually written by third parties”, such as administrative agencies, should also raise concern.

MedCo stressed the importance of MROs understanding their obligations, and not just relying on its audits for advice.

At the same time, if an MRO did not agree with a MedCo audit assessment that it has encountered an ethical issues or that any of its conduct was unethical, “the MRO should consider sending employees and directors on a formal ethics training course”.

The updated guidance is significantly longer than its 2018 predecessor. Other changes include clarifying the boundaries as to what MROs should do for themselves where administrative agencies, software providers and platforms are involved, and “facilitating differentiation amongst MROs” by providing examples of what represents minimum standards and best practice.

Alongside the guidance, MedCo has also updated the MRO qualifying criteria audit guide and MRO technical data aid. They all come into force on 24 February.

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