A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) earlier this month captures how so far telemedicine doctors haven’t been sued for medical malpractice by patients. Some safety analysts suggest that we shouldn’t take the study authors’ words to mean that this latest type of medical care is completely safe though.
Of the over 551 cases that the New England authors combed though, none of them resulted in a medical malpractice case being filed against the treating physician. The researchers took these statistics as indicative of the overall norm that patients should expect from this approach to medicine. What they didn’t point out is that patients seeking care via this approach are often presenting with low-risk conditions. Their expectation is lower than other patients.
Safety analysts fear that malpractice claims will grow as providers push the envelope in terms of the level of care that they provide via telemedicine. They note that innovators in the field are struggling to properly identify patients, taking an adequate medical history for them and to accurately diagnose their condition and prescribe a treatment.
One analyst opines that telemedicine providers may be at a reduced risk for malpractice lawsuits because they limit what they see clients for. They’re also selective about the treatments that they’ll offer them. They found that telemedicine doctors may, for example, steer clear of prescribing a patient with a drug that carries with it added adverse side effects. They may instead prescribe one that’s less addictive or that has fewer contraindications instead.
They also found that telemedicine doctors reduce their liability risk by asking patients to see a physician in person if they present with a chronic condition.
Telemedicine is still a relatively new and evolving field of medicine. It’s inevitable that there will come a time when a Connecticut doctor will overstep the limits of what can be accomplished through this approach and a patient will be hurt.
Patients who experience a worsening of their condition due to a delayed or misdiagnosis should consult with a medical malpractice attorney. They can advise them of their right to recover compensation in their case.