Skip to main content

«  View All Posts

Research & Analysis

Peeling Back the layers: What makes a clinic a clinic?

December 17th, 2015 | 2 min. read

By Lindsay Youngs

The term “medical clinic” is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as a place where people get medical help, an event at which a doctor is available to talk to people about a particular health matter, or as a meeting during which a group of people learn about a particular thing or work on a particular problem.  This is an ambiguous definition that encompasses more than one specific clinic exposure.  Unfortunately, this vague classification extends into the medical malpractice insurance realm as well.

Many generalist agents and brokers use this term as a catch-all for any healthcare facility or location.  Are they talking about a physician group?  A medical spa?  An individual physician’s private practice?  Any outpatient facility?  What makes a clinic truly a clinic?

To answer this question, we have to look at key components such as ownership structure and operational protocol, including staff utilization, and level of service.  These can be further simplified into the defining characteristics of a traditional clinic:

Ownership structure

Many individual physicians consider their private solo practices to be clinics.  Traditionally though, a clinic has multiple physicians and/or providers and is not necessarily owned by a solo doctor.  They have a specific ratio of MDs to midlevels, as opposed to the midlevels working under just one physician.

Staff Utilization

Traditional clinics generally utilize multiple doctors and allied providers.  These doctors do not have to have ownership in the clinic, and are usually employed or contracted.


Unlike medical facilities such as urgent cares, clinics take appointments.  They do not see the volume of walk-ins or the level of urgency that a traditional clinic would be equipped to handle.


The majority of clinics are specialty specific.  We are seeing an increase in “multi-specialty” clinics, but these are still specific in their aim and scope of treatments that they offer.

We have to be careful when using the term clinic to secure medical malpractice coverage.  Within the varying clinic categories are a myriad of questions including the potential need for provider direct patient care coverage, administrative duties exposure, types of vicarious risk to the entity, and individual practitioner prior acts exposure.

At Ethos, we specialize in figuring out what kind of clinic you need to insure and the best way to categorize it.  This helps you to get the best possible quotes available.  Call us if you need help unraveling these exposures.  We’re happy to help.