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Telemedicine comes with malpractice risks

| Jan 5, 2021 | Doctor Errors |

The use of telemedicine grew dramatically and was an invaluable asset this year. Forty-two percent of Americans stated that they had video instead of in-person visits with their medical providers during the pandemic. But the risk of doctor errors may accompany the rising use of telemedicine.

Examination limitations

The comparable advantages of telemedicine and in-person visits should be carefully weighed once it is safer to resume traditional office visits. Video allows a physician to see their patient and greatly relies a lot on what the patient is reporting.

In telehealth visits, however, physicians may not get the full sense of the patient’s condition that they have by direct observation and touching. A video consultation may miss subtle symptoms such as a lump that cannot seen but only felt by the practitioner.

Doctors must assure that they obtain the same information during a tele-visit that is usually obtained by other staff during an in-person visit. Otherwise, important information may be missed about the patient’s condition.

Documentation

Telemedicine may not be documented in the same manner as traditional office visits. Practitioners must fully document whether an examination or treatment was not performed because of the virtual visit.

A summary of patient care after a telemedicine visit can help keep patients informed and assure they follow through on follow-up care recommendations and instructions.

Informed consent

Physicians must obtain adequately documented informed consent allowing them to legally interfere with the patient’s physical body. This should be obtained during the first in-person, if possible.

Patient also need to receive information on their virtual visit. It should include the names and credentials of the participating staff, their right to stop or refuse telemedicine treatment, privacy and security risks, risks and limitations from using this technology, alternative care if there is an emergency or technological malfunction, and relevant information on Oregon’s telemedicine rules.

Other precautions

A virtual visit should be done in a manner that is professional, uninterrupted and assures confidentiality. Doctors should dress appropriately, use headsets, and conduct the visit in a private area. Patients need to be in a private area of their home.

Doctors must also assure that these visits comply with Oregon’s and other state rules. Many of these requirements are temporary and may change.

Attorneys can help determine whether a doctor violated their standard of care and harmed a patient. They may pursue compensation and damages for this malpractice.

 

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