MedCo Madness II
The shenanigans around MedCo continue to elicit amusement, astonishment and despair in roughly equal measure
Scale of the problem
At last we have some statistics on MedCo from Litigation Futures. Apparently there are some 175 medical reporting organisations (MROs) registered with MedCo – including 14 ‘tier 1’ national providers. That’s far more than the couple of dozen most observers might have expected.
Speaking at a recent PI Futures conference in Manchester, Martin Heskins, a director of MedCo, said that MedCo has 457 independent medical experts registered and 1,673 authorised users. Since the system began in Spring 2015:
- some 199,000 searches had resulted in the selection of an MRO
- some 19,000 searches had resulted in the selection of a ‘Direct Medical Expert’.
Mr Heskins reported that as well as some law firms trying to ‘game’ MedCo, there were also other poor behaviours being displayed by users, including a firm of solicitors that had insisted on being present at a medical examination, and a medical ‘expert’ conducting examinations by Skype!
October 2015 saw the start of the MedCo accreditation system. By 1 January 2016, all medical experts wishing to provide medico-legal reports through the MedCo system (low-value soft tissue injury claims arising from road traffic accidents) must be registered with, and accredited by, MedCo. This requirement applies to both experts who currently work only via MROs (in MedCo parlance, Indirect Medical Experts) as well as the Direct Medical Experts who have been registering since April.
So far, MedCo has authorised just two companies to provide its accredited training: Bond Solon and Docslot. One might have thought that approach could be a bit anti-competitive, but on price at least the competition seems to be working fine. For example, Bond Solon began selling its MedCo-accredited training at £595 + vat. Docslot came in at £250 + vat. Bond Solon dropped its price to match. Now Docslot is offering a Special Launch Price of £95 + vat. Many are asking what this price war tells us of the quality of the training – all of which is on-line! Medics who are paying for the ‘benefit’ of this mandatory accreditation must, on the pricing evidence alone, be grateful that Bond Solon did not end up as the only approved training provider!
Despite no mention of it in any MedCo documentation we’ve seen, it transpires that MedCo operates a quota system for Direct Medical Experts. One expert found that once he had received a certain number of instructions, his details stopped appearing in searches in his geographical area. Enquiries of MedCo revealed that he had ‘reached his quota’, and until the other experts in his area caught up, he would no longer show up in searches! How random in that?
So, if you are a good expert witness offering to work as a Direct Medical Expert and producing quality reports that find favour amongst instructing lawyers, you will soon be penalised and taken off the searches. If other experts in your geographic area fail to produce the quality of work lawyers require, these experts need not worry. You’ll be bumped from the lists soon enough and only their names will appear for instruction! Alternatively the lawyers will opt for an Indirect Medical Experts from an MRO. The latter choice will do nothing for your MedCo statistics since your ‘colleague’ will still not have been instructed and you’ll still look too popular to appear in searches!
This ‘fairness’ system appears to support the many claims that MedCo is doing little to encourage improved report quality – it ends up promoting experts no lawyer wants to instruct above those they do!
If there was any cogent widespread evidence that experts and lawyers were in cahoots to commit fraud in the RTA PI market by fabricating evidence, all this MedCo madness by the MoJ might have been warranted. In the absence of any such evidence, what exactly is the point of it all?