Hawaii Defense Medical Examiners - IME Experts, DME Doctors - Insurance Company Doctors
This Hawaii Defense Medical Examiners page and the pages to which it links are provided in an effort to help patients avoid some of the pitfalls of biased IME (DME) exams and insurance company doctors. If this information seems helpful- great- if not, ignore it as the ravings of an uninformed lunatic.
Ethical Obligations of Defense Medical Examiners (IMEs)
Some of the relevant AMA ethical and confidentiality guidelines are set forth below.
E-10.03 Patient-Physician Relationship in the Context of Work-Related and Independent Medical Examinations
When a physician is responsible for performing an isolated assessment of an individual's health or disability for an employer, business, or insurer, a limited patient-physician relationship should be considered to exist. Both "Industry Employed Physicians" (IEPs), who are employed by businesses or insurance companies for the purpose of conducting medical examinations, and Independent Medical Examiners" (IMEs), who are independent contractors providing medical examinations within the realm of their specialty, may perform such medical examinations.
Despite their ties to a third party, the responsibilities of IEPs and IMEs are in some basic respects very similar to those of other physicians. IEPs and IMEs have the same obligations as physicians in other contexts to:
(1) Evaluate objectively the patient's health or disability. In order to maintain objectivity, IEPs and IMEs should not be influenced by the preferences of the patient-employee, employer, or insurance company when making a diagnosis during a work-related or independent medical examination.
(2) Maintain patient confidentiality as outlined by Opinion 5.09, "Industry Employed Physicians and Independent Medical Examiners."
(3) Disclose fully potential or perceived conflicts of interest. The physician should inform the patient about the terms of the agreement between himself or herself and the third party as well as the fact that he or she is acting as an agent of that entity. This should be done at the outset of the examination, before health information is gathered from the patient-employee. Before the physician proceeds with the exam, he or she should ensure to the extent possible that the patient understands the physician's unaltered ethical obligations, as well as the differences that exist between the physician's role in this context and the physician's traditional fiduciary role.
IEPs and IMEs are responsible for administering an objective medical evaluation but not for monitoring patients' health over time, treating patients, or fulfilling many other duties traditionally held by physicians. Consequently, a limited patient-physician relationship should be considered to exist during isolated assessments of an individual's health or disability for an employer, business, or insurer.
The physician has a responsibility to inform the patient about important health information or abnormalities that he or she discovers during the course of the examination. In addition, the physician should ensure to the extent possible that the patient understands the problem or diagnosis. Furthermore, when appropriate, the physician should suggest that the patient seek care from a qualified physician and, if requested, provide reasonable assistance in securing follow-up care. (I)
Issued December 1999 based on the report "Patient-Physician Relationship in the Context of Work-Related and Independent Medical Examinations," adopted June 1999.
E-5.09 Confidentiality Industry-Employed Physicians and Independent Medical Examiners
Where a physician's services are limited to performing an isolated assessment of an individual's health or disability for an employer, business, or insurer, the information obtained by the physician as a result of such examinations is confidential and should not be communicated to a third party without the individual's prior written consent, unless required by law. If the individual authorized the release of medical information to an employer or a potential employer, the physician should release only that information which is reasonably relevant to the employer's decision regarding that individual's ability to perform the work required by the job.
When a physician renders treatment to an employee with a work-related illness or injury, the release of medical information to the employer as to the treatment provided may be subject to the provisions of worker's compensation laws. The physician must comply with the requirements of such laws, if applicable. However, the physician may not otherwise discuss the employee's health condition with the employer without the employee's consent or, in the event of the employee's incapacity, the appropriate proxy's consent.
Whenever statistical information about employees' health is released, all employee identities should be deleted.
Issued July 1983; Updated June 1994; updated June 1996; updated December 1999 based on the report "Patient-Physician Relationship in the Context of Work-Related and Independent Medical Examinations," adopted June 1999.
The AMA Declaration of Professional Responsibility also has some principles that may be relevant.
Recordings during Defense Medical Exams (IMEs)
In the Third Circuit Court of the State of Hawaii - that Court recently issued an order allowing an injured patient to record a DME with a known insurance company doctor - Dr. Sbordone. The insurer was allowed to choose its examiner over the patient's objections, so the patient was forced to attend a DME (IME) - but with a lawyer's help (J.K.), the patient was able to take this precaution in order to limit the damage that the insurance company doctor could do. The recording of the so-called IME was apparently done with collar microphones.