Will Increased Use Lead To Rise In Telemedicine Malpractice Claims?
Contrary to what many assume, telemedicine services are not a byproduct of the Coronavirus pandemic. Telemedicine and telehealth services have been available to patients long before COVID-19 impacted nearly every facet of daily life; however, the current rate at which patients are consuming telehealth services is eyebrow-raising. Due to social distancing and health and safety concerns, more patients are utilizing virtual healthcare appointments to address medical concerns and treatment. As telemedicine services become increasingly more cemented as a part of our daily lives, concerns about quality of care, and the associated risks for medical malpractice are heightened.
Telemedicine and telehealth have been a fixture for those who are unable to physically meet for in-person doctors’ appointments and follow-ups. It is also a primary way to provide healthcare to disabled and/or elderly citizens who live alone and/or need in-home assistance with daily duties. In 2018 alone, states that permit the use of telehealth reported 95% of employers offered the service to employees who suffer from minor or non-urgent health issues. When comparing this figure to the 14% of large employers nationwide offering telehealth services to employees in 2014, it is clear that the need for and push to utilize these services has expanded. While telehealth services can certainly be helpful and provide effective care, recent dramatic increases in use spurred by the Coronavirus pandemic have raised questions about patients who may be receiving less than the appropriate level of care, simply because it is being delivered via telehealth.
Issues with Telemedicine
When it comes to medicine and treating patients, there is always room for error; however, when a provider’s negligence and wrongdoing results in a new or additional injury to a patient that can be considered malpractice. Telehealth services, while convenient, are unable to replicate the same level of care as in-person visits. This is largely the reason why telehealth services are recommended for minor or non-urgent medical needs. With the implementation of social distancing and physician office closures, patients are now turning to these services for all of their regular health needs. This can result in catastrophic mistakes that cause patients to suffer by either delaying necessary treatment or providing unnecessary treatment.
The following could result in telemedicine medical malpractice:
Misdiagnosis is an extremely harmful medical malpractice event. Without receiving the proper diagnosis – or diagnosis at all – it is impossible to provide quality care and treatment in a timely manner. Without the proper diagnosis, patients can suffer from their illness or injury for far longer than necessary, which could result in wrongful death.
Prescription medication errors can include a patient being prescribed the wrong medication and/or the wrong dosage. These errors have devastating effects on patient care and recovery due to the fact that the patient has neither received nor adhered to an accurate treatment plan. Additionally, patients who are prescribed incorrect dosages can develop dependencies on prescription medication, causing further health issues and suffering for patients.
Improper follow-up is one of the biggest concerns coming with the increased use of telehealth medicine. As easy as it is to schedule and participate in telehealth sessions, it is just as easy to not follow up. Continued follow-ups are crucial in monitoring a patient’s health during recovery, as well as in monitoring the effectiveness of a treatment plan. When physicians and medical professionals fail to provide quality follow-up care, patients could be suffering unknowingly until a major health event occurs that could have been prevented.
For those who have used and/or plan to use telehealth services, it’s important to document all sessions and treatment plans and to schedule follow-up sessions even if the physician, nurse, or other practitioner does not automatically do so. Sadly, a patient should not have to take on the due diligence of a medical professional, but our current healthcare system is strained and the pressure on providers to quickly move from case to case could cost a patient their life.
Philadelphia Medical Malpractice Lawyers
Regardless of how a patient receives medical care, the quality provided should not falter. Unfortunately, this is not the case for Philadelphia residents who have long suffered from inadequate healthcare. Careless mistakes cost more than just legal fees; these harmful actions have the potential to affect lives forever. If you or a loved one were a victim of medical malpractice, contact the Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyers of Lopez McHugh LLP today to discuss your case.