Risks of Medical Errors Through Telemedicine During COVID-19
Telemedicine, the use of telecommunications and related technologies to enable remote health care, is being hailed as an innovative step in delivering certain types of medical services. The global crisis created by the novel coronavirus COVID-19 has highlighted the need for health care providers to implement telemedicine strategies whenever possible. At some point in the future, a remote approach may be preferred simply because of its convenience.
Regardless of the underlying reasons for practitioners to support patient care through telemedicine, there are risks of providing treatment in the absence of a physical presence. Because physicians are still held to their legal duty, patients may have rights when telemedicine leads to malpractice. A Florida medical malpractice lawyer can explain in more detail, but an overview of the relevant concepts is helpful.
Key Definitions: The US Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) defines telehealth, a.k.a. telemedicine, as the use of electronic information and telecommunications solutions to support:
- Long-distance medical services;
- Patient-provider medical information;
- Public health; and,
- Other administrative or health care services.
The HRSA definition is clear that providers must comply with the same standards of care as they do during an in-person, live patient encounter; they must also generate medical records in the same fashion as with face-to-face appointments.
How Telemedicine Works: Telemedicine envisions the use of interactive media, including components for audio and video – typically a video conferencing arrangement. Health care practitioners are allowed to diagnose, consult, and deliver certain types of medical care; however, they cannot do so when the consult ONLY encompasses audio, email messages, or fax transmissions. An arrangement will typically comply with regulations if:
- The patient interacts with the provider through an online portal from their home computer or a kiosk, usually in a clinical or workplace environment; and,
- The patient and physician converse through a live audio-video conferencing encounter.
The Risks of Telemedicine Malpractice: There are obvious dangers when a health care provider dispenses medical diagnoses, consultations, and treatments remotely – and without the opportunity for physical examination. The patient can describe symptoms and offer a camera view of visible indications, but a doctor will not pick up on the cues he or she normally would when in the same room. As a result, there’s an increased risk of misdiagnosis.
In a study of telehealth encounters, researchers found that major medical conditions were missed frequently. As a result, patients received treatments or prescriptions that didn’t comply with medically accepted standards. Unless and until advancements reach the level of a face-to-face encounter, patients are at risk of improper treatment – potentially giving rise to a claim for medical malpractice.
A Florida Medical Malpractice Attorney Can Provide More Information on Your Rights
If you have concerns about receiving care or believe you suffered harm linked to the practice of telemedicine, please contact the Miami medical malpractice lawyers at Freidin Brown, P.A. right away. We can schedule a free consultation at our offices to review your circumstances. After we learn more about your situation, we can advise you on your rights and remedies through a medical malpractice claim.