Whether you call it telemedicine, telehealth, or virtual healthcare, today’s technology is revolutionizing patient care, and advertisements are everywhere:
“See a doctor in minutes”
“Skip the waiting room”
“Take the stress out of doctor’s appointments”
Patients can now opt to take advantage of virtual healthcare through physician groups, hospitals, medical centers, pharmacies, insurance companies, Medicare advantage plans, and others. It is a trend that is showing rapid growth. In fact, Research and Markets predicts that the US telehealth market will reach revenues of more than $13 billion by 2023, expanding at a compound annual growth rate of about 27% between 2017 and 2023.
The big advantages – it’s easy, it’s accessible, and it’s affordable. Patients can access their virtual healthcare provider through their computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones, smart watches, or internet-connected kiosks in retail locations. Licensed medical care providers are available 24 hours a day and seven days a week.
It can mean no long waits for appointments, not having to go out when sick, no parking problems at busy medical centers, and no germ-laden waiting rooms. Virtual healthcare can provide for patients of every age. Its reach can extend from primary care to follow-up visits to managing long-term conditions.
While there are many benefits to this new technology, there are also many issues which can cause problems for the patients:
- Diagnosis Failures – Healthcare workers cannot properly diagnose a patient unless they have done an adequate assessment. Doctors who fail to spend enough time evaluating the patients, their medical histories, their overall situations, and their current complaints may come up with a wrong diagnosis. If something is seriously wrong, a misdiagnosis can mean a delay or failure to treat such severe conditions as cancer, heart attacks, or meningitis.
- No Long-Term Doctor/Patient Relationship -A doctor or other health care worker who doesn’t know a patient, has never seen a patient face-to-face, and has never physically examined a patient may be at a disadvantage when it comes to recommending a treatment. An incomplete documentation of a patient’s medical history can cause a physician to make a critical mistake.
- Communication Problems – Doctors who do not listen properly may fail to note seemingly minor complaints which may prove to be more serious, and they may devalue a patient’s views and feelings. In addition, they may not give the patient the instructions and guidance they need, and may not properly inform patients of risks or alternative treatments. Doctors who are tired or distracted may cut a session short leaving the patient without the time to ask important questions.
- Improper Treatment – Virtual healthcare doctors must know their limits, and there are many conditions which cannot be treated properly through virtual means. If a healthcare professional does not refer a patient to a physician’s office or an emergency room when necessary, a patient with a serious problem can suffer a negative outcome.
- Equipment Malfunction – Remote patient monitoring through interconnected devices can allow virtual doctors to receive important medical data. If the equipment malfunctions, however, data may not be transmitted properly. Incorrect readings of patients’ vital signs – temperature, blood pressure, and glucose numbers – can cause a doctor to believe there is a problem when there is not a problem, or believe there isn’t a problem when there is one. Poor computer connections can make it difficult for a doctor to view such things as a patient’s accurate skin tone or red and swollen tonsils. This can lead to a serious misdiagnosis.
- Medication Mistakes – Doctors can make medication mistakes when they have not established an appropriate relationship with their patients. Doctors who prescribe medicines for incorrect diagnoses or who over-prescribe medications to try to please patients can put their patients in harm’s way.
Medical negligence can occur though both traditional and virtual healthcare. If you feel that you have been seriously harmed, you need to understand your options. A qualified medical malpractice attorney can help.