The dramatic changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic are numerous and exhaustive, felt by virtually all Americans. It has even fueled the growth of a change in our medical care. As a result of coronavirus, telemedicine is now a much more widely adopted norm.
But how safe is telemedicine?
Telehealth is not new. It’s been around for more than a decade, but due to the current inherent health risks of COVID-19, its use has skyrocketed in 2020. The benefits are obvious. The chief being it limits physical interaction and therefore the risk of potentially deadly virus spread.
As more doctors provide medical care remotely, however, they may also increase the chances of making serious medical errors with their online patients.
The Doctors Company, a medical malpractice insurer, recently published a white paper on the growing use of telemedicine, with an eye on not only the dangers it poses for patients but the economic dangers it can pose for physicians via medical malpractice lawsuit awards.
Pros and Cons of Telehealth
The research, “Your Patient is Logging on Now: The Risks and Benefits of Telehealth in the Future of Healthcare,” relates that telehealth doctor exams doubled between 2016 and 2019, and by April this year alone, there were about 1 million such online visits a week.
The report also notes that telemedicine medical malpractice claims have risen over the last 15 years. As it has become more widely adopted, more patients have suffered serious telehealth mistakes.
The report identified the positives of telemedicine:
· Less of a risk of patient infection, such as a serious hospital-acquired infection
· More frequent physician contact for those with chronic conditions
· Increase in doctor access, especially those in rural areas
It also identified numerous potential patient pitfalls. Those unrelated to errors that can harm patients were:
· Privacy issues
· Decrease of medical care access for some patients, such as seniors who lack internet access
One, if not the most common, medical error in traditional health care is misdiagnosis. This takes many forms, such as:
· Wrong diagnosis
· Delayed diagnosis
· Missed diagnosis
Most Common, Serious Medical Error Made During Telemedicine
According to this report, misdiagnosis is also a serious but common medical error made during telemedicine. In fact, the Doctors Company reports misdiagnosis is the most common telehealth medical malpractice claim.
It’s not hard to understand why, as the report shows the top illnesses misdiagnosed by doctors practicing telehealth were serious and life-threatening.
According to the white paper, the top misdiagnosed telemedicine patient conditions are:
· Cancer – 25% of all medical malpractice claims
· Stroke – 20% of all medical malpractice claims
· Infection – 20% of all medical malpractice claims
During this health crisis, telemedicine is a needed and realistic healthcare option for many patients today. But this doesn’t mean that a doctor is no less responsible for providing the expected standard level of care – even remotely – that all patients deserve.
Whether it happened during an online visit or through in-person treatment, if you or a loved one suffered critical harm from a medical error, a medical malpractice attorney can investigate to obtain the justice you also deserve.
The choice of a lawyer is an important decision that should not be based solely on advertisements.
Authored by Gray, Ritter & Graham, P.C., posted in Blog October 13, 2020