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Increased Medical Malpractice Issues With the Use of Telemedicine

As the use of telemedicine has skyrocketed over the last year, many physicians have fully transferred all visits to a virtual setting. This helps to reduce overhead costs and is more convenient for both the physician and the patient alike. Employers are even jumping on board, with 95% of large employers offering telehealth to employees in states where telehealth is permitted. While telemedicine has its benefits, there are a few legal concerns.

Practicing Across State Lines

One of the biggest reasons for medical malpractice claims in regard to telehealth is physicians overreaching their licensing. Doctors must be licensed within the state that they practice. Taking telemedical visits from out-of-state patients opens the door for medical malpractice lawsuits. 

Additionally, prescribing medication across state lines is overreaching. Any pharmacy that fulfills a prescription that was issued by an out-of-state doctor can also be held liable for not following appropriate safety standards.

Lack of a Physical Exam

Another key area where medical malpractice claims are popping up more consistently is when there is the prescription of medication. Simply reading over a patient’s questionnaire that was submitted over the internet isn’t considered sufficient enough, in most cases, to prescribe medication. Some states still require the need for a physical examination to verify the status of a patient’s health before prescribing medication.

Deliberate Indifference

It’s a well-known standard that all physicians must treat their patients to the best of their medical abilities and judgment. Telemedicine has opened the door to claims of deliberate indifference for prisoners with serious medical conditions who utilize the platform. Deliberate indifference means that the doctor had a reckless disregard for the consequences of their actions.

Misdiagnosis

There’s truly no great simulation of an in-patient doctor’s visit. Not only can the physician better assess the physical characteristics of the patient, but they can pick up on non-verbal cues that aren’t available for telephonic visits. The lack of these in-patient benefits increases the risk for misdiagnosis.

Additionally, most telehealth visits lack any continuity of care. When you visit with your regular physician, they understand your medical history, profession, housing situation, family history, and so forth. This helps to create an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan. When patients meet with a provider for the first time over the telephone or on a virtual conference, the provider can misdiagnose the patient due simply to insufficient knowledge of the patient.

Failure to Diagnose

Another area where medical malpractice is becoming all-to-common with telehealth visits is when doctors fail to diagnose patients completely. With the lack of a physical examination, lab testing, and so on, more physicians using telehealth are relying on the self-reported symptoms of their patients. It’s no surprise that these can be somewhat skewed based on the patient’s knowledge. Physicians who are solely relying on patient symptom reporting may miss the physical attributes that can indicate a more serious condition. 

While telehealth has provided a more convenient platform for patients and medical providers, it has also opened up the door for many medical malpractice claims.