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Professional Indemnity Insurance for Acupuncturists

Written by

Shaun McGowan

Your work as an Acupuncturist begins with building a comprehensive profile of your clients, including personal information about their lifestyle, diet, physical and mental health, and medical history. Using this information you diagnose their condition and devise an individual plan for treating their symptoms or underlying condition.

If you make a mistake in your diagnosis or while administering a treatment there is a risk that you could injure a patient or make their condition worse. And like all health practitioners you face the risk that a client could believe your treatment has caused them harm, even if this is unjustified. There are many reasons why a client may choose to file a lawsuit against you. Possible claims could include:

  • You were negligent in collecting information about their physical and emotional health and made an inaccurate diagnosis
  • You physically hurt them during the course of a treatment
  • Your treatment made their condition worse or caused them to experience new symptoms
  • You did not provide the service you advertised (your treatment did not work)
  • You touched them in an inappropriate way
  • You breached their privacy by sharing information about them without their permission

Why do Acupuncturists need professional indemnity insurance?

Acupuncturists and other natural health practitioners in Australia are represented by the peak professional body The Australian Natural Therapists Association (ANTA). If you wish to be a member of ANTA you are required to take out professional indemnity insurance (PII) of at least $1m, to protect both you and your clients in the event that you cause harm or financial loss to someone in the course of your work.

It’s crucial that you protect yourself with professional indemnity insurance even if you choose not to become a member of ANTA. Here are some of the reasons why.

  • If a patient’s condition gets worse, or if they develop new symptoms after you administer a treatment, they may blame you. It may be very difficult to establish whether or not this is justified, since it is hard to assess what the outcome might have been had they not consulted you. This is complicated further if they are undergoing other types of treatment at the same time.
  • There is a considerable risk that you could hurt a patient if you make a mistake while administering a treatment.
  • Your clients may feel anxious about being unclothed during a treatment. If they are unhappy with the way you touch them they could claim inappropriate behaviour or sexual assault. Allegations of this nature could be catastrophic for your reputation and may be extremely expensive to defend.
  • In the course of your work you may gather some deeply personal information about your clients. You have a strict duty of confidentiality, so if you share some of this information with a third party without the express permission of your client (even by accident) they could sue you for breach of privacy.
  • Like any health practitioner you rely heavily on your reputation. If a client files a negligence claim against you, even if the claim has no basis, you will need to mount a legal defence order to protect your reputation, and you may incur considerable legal fees.
  • Your personal assets as well as your business and reputation are on the line if a client sues for professional negligence.

What does professional indemnity insurance cover?

If you already have public liability insurance this will cover you if a client has an accident on your premises, or if you accidentally injure someone or damage their property. However, if you cause physical or financial harm to a client in the course of your work you will need professional indemnity insurance to protect you against any resulting negligence claim.

Professional indemnity insurance covers your legal costs (whether or not the claim against you is upheld) as well as any compensation or damages you are required to pay (up to the limit in your policy).

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How much is professional indemnity insurance for Acupuncturists?

There are several factors that can influence the cost of your professional indemnity insurance. These include:

  • How much cover you wish to take out
  • Your annual turnover
  • Where you work (stamp duty levels are different in each state in Australia)
  • Whether you have ever claimed under a professional indemnity insurance policy before

If you include additional features in your policy like automatic reinstatement (which means that your cover will remain in place even after making a claim) the price of your insurance will be higher.

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Professional indemnity insurance case study

A patient consulted an Acupuncturist for treatment of spinal pain. After conducting a thorough assessment the Acupuncturist decided to administer a scalp acupuncture treatment. During the course of the treatment there was a loud noise on the street outside the practice and the Acupuncturist turned to look out of the window. During this momentary loss of concentration his hand slipped and he pushed the needle into his client’s eye.

The client lost sight in his eye as a result, and sued the Acupuncturist for professional negligence. The claim was upheld and the Acupuncturist was required to pay the client $178,000 in damages. The compensation payment plus the Acupuncturist’s legal costs of $35,000 were covered by her professional indemnity insurance. He paid an excess of just $[xxx] on the claim.

List of Acupuncture services that need professional indemnity insurance

Even if you are not a member of ANTA (in which case you are required to have a minimum of $1m professional indemnity insurance in place) it is extremely important that you protect yourself against negligence claims if you work as an Acupuncturist offering services including:

  • Acupressure
  • Auricular acupuncture
  • Chinese acupuncture
  • Cupping
  • Electro-acupuncture
  • Guasha
  • Japanese acupuncture
  • Korean acupuncture
  • Korean hand acupuncture
  • Medical acupuncture
  • Moxibustion
  • Non-Insertion acupuncture
  • Scalp acupuncture
  • Trigger point acupuncture
  • Tuina

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About the Author

Shaun McGowan from money.com.au

Shaun

McGowan

Shaun McGowan

Shaun is the founder of Money.com.au and is determined to help people pay as little as possible for financial products. Through education and building world class technology. Previously Shaun co-founded CarLoans.com.au and Lend.

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