Report Says Telehealth Increases Medical Malpractice Risk
At Brown, Christie & Green, our Houston medical malpractice attorney recently reviewed a report from The Doctors Company, which says that telehealth may increase medical malpractice risk. Over the past 15 years, telehealth has grown in popularity. With the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become necessary in many parts of the country. By April 2020, telehealth visits skyrocketed to around one million visits per week.
Telehealth is certainly more convenient and often less expensive. But is telehealth as safe and effective as a face-to-face visit with your doctor? Let’s take a look at what the report finds.
Telehealth and Medical Malpractice Risks
There are some well known concerns about telehealth, including confidentiality, insurance issues and the state of the doctor-patient relationship. Telehealth is quite impersonal, especially if you are seeing a doctor for the first time. While significant for many people, these issues pale in comparison to potential risks directly related to care. According to the report from The Doctors Company, telehealth poses medical malpractice risks, including:
- Suboptimal diagnoses
- Suboptimal treatment
- Failure to refer
- Problems with online prescribing
A separate study by The Doctors Company shows that the most common claim in telehealth-related medical malpractice cases is diagnostic errors. In that study of 28 telehealth-related claims:
- 71% of claims were related to diagnoses
- 11% of claims were related to mismanagement of treatment
- 7% of claims were related to improper management of a surgical patient
Other claims include allegations of improper performance of a certain treatment or procedure, as well as improper performance during surgery.
Telehealth and COVID-19
In addition to the more common claims associated with telehealth, researchers also note that there is a threat of the unknown. COVID-19 is changing a lot of the ways that doctors and patients interact. Doctors are offering telehealth more frequently, and patients are turning to this method more often.
In fact, four out of 10 Americans (42%) say that they have used telehealth during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many researchers believe that this trend will continue and that technology-related medical malpractice claims are likely to be more common in the future.
“this may result in claims of types we have not yet seen; the results of those claims may take years to emerge.”
The Future of Telehealth
It seems as though telehealth is here to stay. As a result, it is important for patients to understand the pros and cons of using this method of healthcare so they can make the best decisions about their health.
Pros of Telehealth:
- Increases access to healthcare for most patients
- Promotes better patient satisfaction
- Minimizes infection risk
- Promotes easy management of chronic diseases
- Enhances privacy
It should be noted that telehealth does not increase access to healthcare for all patients. Elderly patients, in particular, often do not have internet access and are not technology savvy.
Cons of Telehealth:
- May hinder establishing a trusted doctor-patient relationship
- Confidentiality is a concern in busy offices or households
- Risk of suboptimal diagnoses or treatment
- Risk of failure to refer
- Challenges in online prescribing
Patients must weigh these pros and cons before deciding that telehealth is more appropriate for their needs than a face-to-face visit. There are certainly some types of interactions, follow ups and updates that can be successfully managed via a video or telephone call. For patients who have an illness or injury that may require a physical examination, it may be best to schedule an office visit and forego telehealth.
Obviously, emergency situations should always be treated as such. Patients who have a medical emergency should not rely on telehealth or wait for a telehealth appointment. Emergency situations should be managed at an emergency room or urgent care facility.
What to Do if you Think You are a Victim of Medical Malpractice
If a medical diagnosis or treatment plan doesn’t turn out the way you hope and plan, it is natural and reasonable for you to be concerned. It is important to remember that not every poor medical outcome is the result of medical malpractice.
To be medical malpractice, your situation must include the following:
- You had a professional relationship with the healthcare provider.
- The healthcare provider failed to adhere to the standards of care when diagnosing or treating you.
- The healthcare provider’s negligent actions or inaction caused your injury.
- Your injury led to economic and other losses.
If you file a medical malpractice claim, it is up to you to prove these elements. That is why it is so important to work with a medical malpractice attorney before you file a lawsuit. Working with an attorney helps ensure that you have a well-built case and adequate evidence to support your claims.
If you have questions or concerns about medical malpractice, contact Brown, Christie & Green. Our team has experience handling all sorts of medical malpractice claims, including medical mistakes, surgical errors, birth injuries, sepsis and nursing home abuse. Contact us to find out if you have a medical malpractice claim and what your best options are going forward.
To request a free consultation, call us at 1-800-600-4210. You can also reach us via email using our online contact form.