Telemedicine may be defined as the use of electronic information and communications technologies to provide and support health care when distance separates the participants, or as the practice of medicine using technology to deliver care at a distance where a physician in one location uses a telecommunications infrastructure to deliver care to a patient at a distant site. Telemedicine is not to be confused with telehealth, which refers broadly to electronic and telecommunications technologies and services used to provide care and services at-a-distance. Telehealth is different from telemedicine in that it refers to a broader scope of remote health care services than telemedicine. Telemedicine refers specifically to remote clinical services, while telehealth can refer to remote non-clinical services.
While telemedicine has existed in the United States for quite some time, its use grew exponentially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Telemedicine is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 18.5% between 2019 and 2025, and the telemedicine market is projected to exceed a valuation of $64 billion by 2025.
Telemedicine is convenient and beneficial for both public health and safety but is associated with liability issues such as medical malpractice, potential misdiagnosis, and errors and omissions. “While medical malpractice claims associated with this service have been minimal to date, we anticipate telemedicine-related claims to grow exponentially as an increasing number of providers add telemedicine to their healthcare delivery systems.” (“Managing the medical professional liability risk of telemedicine claims: A data analytics and risk control perspective”)
The Doctors Company reported 27,559 medical professional liability claims that closed between 2007 and 2018. Of those, only 38 claims involved telemedicine. Aon reviewed its database to determine if it could identify any common coding nomenclature that would enable an actuarial analysis of telemedicine claims, but AON discovered that none of the 108 healthcare systems in the United States in its dataset coded telemedicine claims the same way. “Our hope is to steer the industry towards adopting a common coding structure to establish telemedicine datasets that are actionable, comparable and can be analyzed in future benchmark analyses.”
Medicare and Telemedicine
Due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Public Health Emergency, doctors and other health care providers can use telehealth services to treat COVID-19 (and for other medically reasonable purposes) from offices, hospitals, and places of residence (like homes, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities) as of March 6, 2020. Coinsurance and deductibles apply, though some healthcare providers are reducing or waiving the amount beneficiaries pay for telehealth visits.
Beneficiaries with coverage through a Medicare Advantage Plan do not have to pay out-of-pocket costs (called cost-sharing) for COVID-19 tests. They may also offer more telehealth services than what was included in their approved 2020 benefits.
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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