Do Telehealth Treatments Open You Up To Malpractice?


The medical industry is increasingly involved in telemedicine, also known as, direct-to-customer health services, to offer patients remote care. Telemedicine services allow online doctors to provide consultations, prescriptions, and ongoing treatment support over the phone or through video conferencing.

One of the main advantages of online medicine is that it increases access to healthcare for people who live in remote areas or under served communities, who have limited access to quality healthcare, who require affordable healthcare due to a lack of healthcare insurance, or who do not have transportation options.

How Does Telemedicine Work?

Telemedicine is an effective way for doctors to see more patients, particularly those with restricted means, and provide them with quality healthcare in an accessible and affordable way. It aims to address issues related to the availability of healthcare at the right time for many patients.

By using smartphones or remote internet technology, telemedicine allows virtual doctors to connect with patients online and decide the best way to treat their disease. A patient may receive a diagnosis over the smartphone or computer, or they may be recommended to make an in-person visit if the condition cannot be adequately diagnosed or treated online.

With telemedicine, doctors can also make prescriptions remotely without physically examining the patient. That’s because there are several conditions that only require a visual diagnosis, which can be easily performed via telemedicine. Doctors can also use their computers to electronically transmit prescriptions to a pharmacy near the patient, where the patients can pick them up later.

In most cases, telehealth services are meant for patients who need treatment for relatively common conditions. Some of these conditions may be sinus infections, strep throat, pink eye, oral herpes, dental infections, women’s health, men’s health, chronic conditions like asthma, migraine, hyperthyroidism/hypothyroidism, diabetes Type 2, prescription medicine refill, and more.

In the past, patients needed to see a doctor at an in-person clinic or urgent care clinic. With telemedicine, however, many of these conditions can be tackled via immediate access to medical care without the patient leaving their home.

As such, certified doctors are adding telehealth services to their practices. However, this has raised concerns about legal and compliance complications arising from such care, from telehealth-specific law to state-specific licensing requirements and more.

However, physicians who practice telemedicine believe that telehealth does not carry any more risks than in-person visits if you use good resources, are meticulous, have performed a risk analysis of all the policies and procedures, select good technology, and appropriately document and train for telemedicine.

Malpractice Concerns in Telemedicine

According to experts, telehealth services do not result in new malpractice risks. Telemedicine is not a high-risk practice, but doctors do not need to ensure that they are licensed to practice under the board of medicine for the state where the patient is located and offer a standard of care for specific conditions.

Doctors who follow the licensing rules, who document appropriately, and who follow meticulous standards of care as if they would for in-person treatment do not create further malpractice risks simply because they offer their services virtually.

It is important that online doctors adhere to the rules. For example, physicians could face a malpractice lawsuit or loss of insurance coverage if they treat a patient in a state where they are not licensed to practice.

Even if they made a mistake inadvertently, doctors are held to a higher standard. Since there is a potential for such situations to happen, it is important that online doctors understand all angles before they start practicing virtual medicine.

How Telemedicine Practitioners Should Protect Themselves

Although there is some potential for risks, the standard of care for telemedicine is the same as that of traditional in-person medicine, i.e., acceptable healthcare treatment provided by a reasonably prudent medical professional, unlike similar conditions.

Following Best Practices: Online doctors who offer virtual healthcare can diminish their potential for risk by ensuring they follow best practices and recommendations that are mandated by the American Telemedicine Association. In addition, it is also a good idea to work with a healthcare attorney who has experience in medical malpractice defense so that they can develop policies and procedures to follow the guidelines.

Ensuring Patient Confidentiality: Telehealth practitioners should be extra careful about patient confidentiality. This includes confidentiality of any written documentation, ensuring that they work on a platform that transmits encrypted information, and has cybersecurity and other protective measures that are in compliance with federal, state, and local privacy laws like the HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Privacy Act) and HITECH (Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act).

Educating Patients on Protocols: Online healthcare providers also need to educate patients on the protocols for telemedicine visits and let them know about the potential risks of seeking care remotely.

Ensuring Patients Follow Through: Telehealth providers also need to make sure patients listen to their professional advice and follow through in diagnostic and treatment procedures like radiology, bloodwork, prescription meds, and other specialized care.

In addition, if a simple virtual visit is not enough to yield adequate information for a correct diagnosis or treatment, particularly with patients who may have underlying conditions or serious health issues that may result in complications, online doctors need to cite a lack of information and insist the patient come for an in-person visit for a more in-depth diagnosis and treatment.

Telemedicine Training Can Reduce the Risk of Malpractice

Modern technology can help telemedicine practitioners to adhere to various laws and regulations that govern telemedicine services. For example, some applications allow online doctors to incorporate consent forms in their telehealth workflows and make sure in which state the patient is located so that they can help them in following the rules applicable to the healthcare practice.

In addition, it is important for virtual doctors to seek out training for telemedicine services to make sure they follow the rules while delivering the best care possible in this new mode.

Patients are increasingly seeking out telemedicine for their health needs, so it is important that physicians be encouraged to practice in their field and provide access to quality healthcare to people who would otherwise be left without professional medical services.

Find a Doctor Online

Are you looking for telemedicine doctor services with standards of care? At TelMDCare, we offer the services of Dr. John Ibrahim, a licensed and certified healthcare provider. Reach out to us today to speak to a doctor online at TelMDCare or (800) 230-2050.