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Does Telemedicine Increase the Risk of Malpractice?

Telemedicine is not a new practice, but due to restrictions because of COVID-19, many more medical offices are offering telemedicine. However, if medical malpractice can happen when someone is physically face-to-face with their physician, what complications could arise due to a telemedicine appointment? Moreover, does telemedicine increase the risk of medical malpractice?

How is Telemedicine Used?

Telemedicine is used to replace in-person medical appointments. While doctors won’t be able to physically examine you, they can ask you the same questions they would at a normal appointment (“What are your symptoms?”, “Do you feel pain anywhere?”, etc…). At the end of the telemedicine appointment, doctors can send in a prescription or give suggestions on what the best option would be to fix the patient’s ailment.

Many have welcomed the idea of expanding telemedicine offerings as it allows individuals to stay either in their homes or workplaces without having to make a trip to see a physician. If a patient is contagious, this also allows them to seek help without potentially spreading their illness to other people.

But it is concerning what doctors could miss if they are not seeing the patient in person. For example, it could be difficult to determine if a patient has bronchitis, pneumonia, or another respiratory disease because a doctor is unable to listen to the person’s chest. This could lead to a misdiagnosis and potentially make the patient feel worse and take even longer to recover.

While telemedicine may bring individuals together virtually, it can also be a barrier for doctors who may not receive all the information they need to properly diagnose a patient, which could also lead to a potential medical malpractice claim. Additionally, technology may be glitchy or have other hindrances which could make it difficult to diagnose a patient correctly.

It is the duty of the doctor to properly diagnose a patient to the best of their ability and therefore, if they are having difficulties with the technology, should recommend patients to come into the office for a proper diagnosis.

The Commonality of Medical Malpractice

There are more than 200,000 deaths due to medical malpractice each year. To prove medical malpractice, the following have to be identified:

  • That the patient was under the care of the doctor or other healthcare provider;
  • That healthcare provider or doctor was negligent in their care of duty for the patient; and,
  • The patient suffered because of that doctor or healthcare provider’s negligence.

Whether a doctor sees a patient in person or through telemedicine, the healthcare provider is still upheld to the standard of providing the best care possible for their patients.

Because of the rise in telemedicine appointments, it’s expected that medical malpractice cases involving telemedicine will go up. Since we are still living through the pandemic, exact figures have not yet been released. However, initial studies suggest that cases are on the rise. It’s believed that 65% of telemedicine malpractice cases are connected to a misdiagnosis.

What Can Patients Do To Lower the Risk?

Telemedicine has made it more convenient to receive a medical assessment. If you have an ailment that you get frequently (such as an allergy problem or cold) and you feel confident about your condition, telemedicine may be a good option for you as you can clearly communicate to the physician your symptoms and what treatment has worked for you in the past. Additionally, if you are seeing your regular physician, they should have a copy of your medical history to base facts and information on.

On the other hand, it may be better to see a doctor in person if the following applies:

  • The doctor or health facility does not have your medical history;
  • You have never met the doctor before; or,
  • You’re unsure what your ailment might be.

While these tips won’t take away instances of medical malpractice potentially happening, it does give the patient more control of the situation to prevent a potential misdiagnosis.

How Gunn Law Group P.A. Can Help

Medical malpractice happens for a variety of reasons, including a misdiagnosis during a telemedicine appointment. If you suffered serious repercussions due to a telemedicine appointment, the team at Gunn Law Group P.A. are here for you. Our aggressive attorneys have more than 75 years of collective experience and will fight for the best possible outcome. Contact us today either online or by phone — (813) 993-1448.