The Impact of Telemedicine on Medical Malpractice: Legal Considerations and Challenges

The healthcare industry has been transformed by telemedicine. This technological change, however, is a double-edged sword. It can both help and hurt patients and as a result, it impacts medical malpractice law. However, as with any industry disruption, there may be negative consequences. In the case of medicine, this means the risk of increased medical malpractice injuries.

Telemedicine provides patients with convenient access to medical services from the comfort of their homes. This type of medical care skyrocketed during the Covid pandemic and was a “lifesaver” to doctors and patients alike. There is no turning back now, and it will continue to be a tool doctors and patients utilize.

This innovative approach to healthcare not only transformed the patient-doctor relationship but has also raised critical legal considerations and challenges because telemedicine is more than a computer visit with your doctor. It is more layered and complex than it may seem. For example, telemedicine can include:

  • Phone calls
  • Live video chats
  • Sending images or files through email
  • Text and SMS messages
  • Cloud storage of files for remote access
  • Remote monitoring of medical devices

We rely more on technology to communicate. However, introducing telemedicine technology demands that all involved be aware that it comes with risks and benefits. Telemedicine raises concerns about patient care, informed consent, and the use of technology in diagnosis and treatment. Experienced medical malpractice lawyers will be at the tip of the spear to protect injured patients and know how to litigate a medical malpractice lawsuit successfully. 

Telemed: An Evolving Standard of Care

Telemedicine introduces a unique dimension to the standard of care in medical malpractice cases. While “standard of care” is more of a legal term than a medical one, it does have a general definition, and telemedicine could impact the meaning and, ultimately, medical malpractice cases. 

Generally speaking, “standard of care” is considered:

The level of care, skill, and treatment that a reasonably prudent healthcare provider in the same field or specialty would provide under similar circumstances in the same or similar locality. The standard of care considers the prevailing medical knowledge, the resources available to the healthcare provider, and the case’s specific circumstances. It is not based on the highest level of care possible but on what a reasonably competent healthcare professional would do in similar circumstances. 

While this is the traditional definition, which requires healthcare providers to adhere to a certain level of competence and professionalism, lawyers must now adapt the definition to the telemedicine context and medical malpractice cases.

As telemedicine allows for remote diagnosis and treatment, questions arise regarding whether the standard of care differs for telemedicine encounters compared to in-person visits. For example, a video chat over the phone limits a doctor’s ability to complete a physical examination, which could impact the standard of care.

Courts and medical malpractice lawyers are grappling with defining the appropriate standard of care for telemedicine, considering factors such as the nature of the medical condition, technological limitations, and available resources. Each of these factors will become essential to a successful medical malpractice claim. 

Informed Consent Challenges

Obtaining informed consent is a crucial aspect of medical practice. It ensures that patients completely understand their treatment options, potential risks, and expected outcomes. However, obtaining informed consent in telemedicine can be more difficult due to the lack of face-to-face interactions.

Healthcare providers must ensure that patients are fully informed about the limitations and risks associated with telemedicine, including potential privacy breaches and technological malfunctions. In addition, your doctor is not meeting you face-to-face. Therefore, it is possible that a patient may not receive the proper information on which informed consent is made. This can be integral to any medical malpractice lawsuit.

Technology and Documentation

Telemedicine heavily relies on technology, such as video conferencing platforms and electronic health records (EHRs), for communication and information exchange. While technology enables remote healthcare delivery, it also presents unique challenges regarding documentation. 

When it comes to medical malpractice cases, having accurate and detailed documentation is extremely important to validate the care given and the decisions made. Healthcare providers must ensure that telemedicine appointments are correctly documented, including all consultation details, diagnoses, treatment plans, and patient interactions. It’s crucial to have secure and reliable electronic documentation systems to reduce the risks to patients. 

Privacy and Data Security

Telemedicine involves transmitting and storing sensitive patient information over digital platforms, raising privacy and data security concerns. Healthcare providers must comply with state and federal laws, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), to safeguard patient confidentiality and protect against unauthorized access or breaches. Implementing robust cybersecurity measures, including encryption and secure data storage, is crucial to protect patient information and maintain trust in telemedicine services.

A breach of privacy or HIPAA laws may factor in litigation against a healthcare provider.

The Future of Telemedicine and Medical Malpractice

Telemedicine has its advantages and disadvantages. Those who support telemedicine highlight its benefits, such as reduced costs, increased accessibility, and the availability of specialized care. However, a doctor’s ability to conduct a thorough physical examination is limited during a video call. Although telemedicine is intended to improve accessibility in remote areas, patients in rural or low-income areas may not have access to the technology or reliable internet connectivity required to utilize telemedicine fully.

If you or a loved one believe you have suffered an injury due to telemedicine medical malpractice, contact the Law Offices of Craig A. Altman today for a free consultation. Our medical malpractice lawyers are experienced in this emerging field of medical malpractice litigation and can evaluate your case. Our attorneys will work tirelessly to get you the compensation you deserve.

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