Telemedicine is defined as “remote visits with a clinician.” “Telehealth” is “a broader term encompassing telemedicine plus remote monitoring, asynchronous data collection, and a variety of other incorporations of technology into nonclinical patient and professional health-related areas.” Telemedicine visits with physicians doubled between 2016 and 2019, and since the COVID-19 pandemic struck in the United States, telemedicine has ballooned.
The Doctors Company advises its insureds: “As a component of claims, telemedicine has increased in the last 15 years (as its adoption has increased), but its footprint within our claims database remains small. Of the telemedicine claims we have seen, the most common allegation has been missed diagnosis, and the most commonly missed diagnosis was cancer. That said, the pandemic has called for a massive number of physicians and patients to use telemedicine differently than they ever had before. This may result in claims of types we have not yet seen; the results of those claims will take years to emerge.”
With regard to medical specialties, The Doctors Company reports that cardiologists were early adopters of telemedicine; dermatology is considered a relatively telehealth-friendly specialty; intensivists and hospitalists collaborating on telecritical care can provide enormous benefits when a very sick patient needs a higher level of care than can be immediately provided on site; pediatrics is one of the top four specialties using telemedicine; and, by volume, family practice is the top specialty using telemedicine.
While there are major benefits associated with telemedicine (telemedicine increases access to care for most patients; enhances the ability to manage chronic conditions by making more frequent contact easier; and, reduces infection risks, not just for COVID-19, but for post-op patients, patients who are immunosuppressed, etc.), there are major risks as well: the inherent limitations of remote examinations mean physicians must know when to ask patients to come in to avoid missed diagnoses; increases in cyber liability, especially when providers are seeing patients from a variety of devices in a variety of locations; privacy issues; and, decreases access to care for some patients, such as seniors because half of them do not have internet access.
The Doctors Company advises its insureds, “Telemedicine relies on a physician’s best judgment. Patients may present with concerns that cannot safely be evaluated from a distance, even with remote-exam strategies. The physician can request that the patient come in to be seen in person—and can share with the patient the risks of delaying care. In other words, one of the secrets of practicing telemedicine is knowing when not to practice telemedicine.”
If you or a loved one may have been harmed as a result of telemedicine medical malpractice in the United States, you should promptly find a telemedicine medical malpractice lawyer in your state who may investigate your telemedicine medical malpractice claim for you and represent you or your loved one in a telemedicine medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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