Telemedicine or telehealth has become increasingly popular in the coronavirus pandemic. But did you know that prior to the pandemic, almost 90% of health care facilities used telehealth apps to meet patient needs?
And while electronic health delivery, such as virtual doctor visits, provides for more affordable patient access to healthcare providers, telemedicine presents some unique challenges versus seeing your doctor in their office.
Relaxed Telemedicine Regulation with COVID-19
Because of COVID-19, the Department of Health and Human Services regulations and rules for telemedicine were relaxed to let doctors use telemedicine visits for their patients through a variety of platforms. The rules were eased to make it easier for patients to continue to access healthcare while limiting exposure to COVID. In the United States, waivers allowed telehealth to be accessed outside of rural areas.
In fact, HHS encouraged healthcare providers to adopt and use telehealth as a way to safely provide care to patients in appropriate situations, including routine health care, like wellness visits; medication consultation; dermatology (skin care); eye exams; nutrition counseling; mental health counseling.
But this made it easier for misdiagnoses, causing harm to patients—meaning some patients may not have been effectively or properly treated.
According to a recent analysis conducted by CRICO, a medical professional liability company, two-thirds of telemedicine-related claims received from 2014 through 2018 were diagnosis-related. And ineffective communication during telehealth visits may result in medical malpractice concerns. A physician may not effectively treat the patient if they don’t establish an appropriate physician-patient relationship and obtain a proper assessment of the patient’s medical condition and detailed medical history.
Medical Malpractice and Telemedicine
Medical negligence is defined as care by a doctor that results in injury to a patient unknowingly, either through simple ignorance or failing to take action where it is needed. But it’s just one element of medical malpractice.
Negligence is an act or omission (failure to act) by a medical professional that deviates from the accepted medical standard of care. This is very important when it comes to telemedicine. The primary question in most medical malpractice cases is whether the provider complied with the generally accepted “standard of care” when evaluating, diagnosing, or treating a patient.
The medical “standard of care” usually means the degree of care and skill of the average healthcare provider who practices in the provider’s specialty, taking into account the medical knowledge that is available in the field. Even during the COVID-19 pandemic, this concept doesn’t change for telemedicine.
For example, a patient may be seen via telemedicine, but if the doctor failed to follow up with an in-person visit for a potentially serious condition, it could be a deviation from the standard of care. The doctor could be held liable for malpractice.
If you believe that a telemedicine visit has caused you injury, you may have a claim for medical malpractice.
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