This edition was issued on 28 July 2023
In this edition, I would like to acknowledge the significant inroads that have been made in reducing the backlog of motor accidents medical disputes, as well as provide a general update on the performance of Medical Services.
There is also a reminder to lodge Notices of Discontinuance promptly to avoid delays in finalising matters.
I will be in touch with another edition of the Personal Injury Commission News soon.
Medical Services: Reducing the medical disputes backlog
The Commission’s focus on addressing the motor accidents medical dispute backlog has paid dividends with well over 4,000 delayed medical disputes now resolved since 1 January 2022. Back then, the Commission had a backlog high of 4,658 medical disputes. At the time of writing, we have around 500 matters remaining in backlog (pre-1 January 2022 matters), a tremendous effort. This means 90% of all backlog matters have now been finalised.
As outlined in previous editions, one of the big challenges the Commission has faced has been the backlog of in-person medical assessments as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent suspensions of in-person medical assessments.
The Medical Services Directorate and our medical assessors have worked tirelessly to address the backlog through a significant increase in the number of assessments scheduled and assessments completed.
This work has also seen an overall reduction in the Commission’s motor accidents medical disputes on hand which currently sit just above 3,500. This is the lowest number of medical disputes on hand since the commencement of the Commission on 1 March 2021. This number is expected to reduce further to approximately 2,500 by the end of the 2023-24 financial year. This will see waiting times for medical assessments reduce and build on the progress made over the course of 2022-23.
The following report provides an update from Medical Services on their performance to the end of the 2022-23 financial year.
Motor accidents medical disputes clearance rates
Pleasingly, finalisations of medical disputes remained high over the course of the 2022-23 financial year: the Commission finalised more than 5,000 motor accidents medical disputes and almost 4,000 disputes were filed. This resulted in a strong clearance rate for the financial year of approximately 130%. Clearance rates over 100% mean that more matters are being completed than are being lodged. In short, the overall number of open motor accident medical disputes is heading down, which is extremely positive.
Importantly, not only are we finalising high numbers of medical disputes which make up our backlog (pre-1 January 2022), we are also finalising disputes filed in 2022 and 2023 as shown in the graph below (with the light and dark green differentiators, respectively). This means we will keep our more recent medical disputes moving through the system in a timelier manner.
Medical disputes backlog
During the 2022-23 financial year, the Commission reduced the backlog matters by 2,604 to finish the year with 572 matters still in the backlog to resolve. We are seeing the finalisation rate start to slow as we deal with the more challenging matters working our way through the backlog.
However, we remain on track to eliminate the backlog during 2023 except for a small residual cohort requiring further intervention to reach resolution which may take additional time. These may include claimants that currently reside overseas who need physical assessment, claimants that are incarcerated or claimants whose condition is not stable enough for assessment.
Medical assessment scheduling
Over the 2022-23 financial year, the Commission achieved an average of 660 motor accidents medical assessments scheduled to occur each month, peaking at approximately 850 in November 2022 and March 2023.
Scheduled appointments are an important lead indicator for the resolution of medical disputes. With the commencement of the SMS reminder trial in March 2023, we have seen some initial improvements in appointment attendances. However, there are still around 40-45% of appointments for motor accidents medical assessments being cancelled or rescheduled each month. Many of these are easily avoidable and we continue to seek everyone’s support in ensuring as many assessments as possible go ahead on their scheduled date.
Our highest priority remains the reduction in medical disputes on hand over time leading to reduced waiting times for injured persons.
Notifying the Commission of disputes which are settled or discontinued
We have had the unfortunate experience recently in several matters where members or medical panels have either drafted a decision or were well into the drafting only to find the matter had resolved and no discontinuance has been filed. This impacts on the Commission’s time and resources and can be easily avoided by the very expedient filing of a notice.
Parties should formally close the matter as soon as possible via consent order, as provided for in rule 71, or by the party who commenced the proceedings lodging a Notice of Discontinuance.
The Notice of Discontinuance can be found on the Commission website via Lodge a Dispute and the matter will be finalised with a sealed copy provided to the parties.
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