As technology continues to evolve in the medical field, patients have more options when it comes to seeking care. Telemedicine allows patients to use their devices to consult with a doctor remotely and get advice or treatment. In most cases, the systems are designed for patients who are experiencing common ailments. As with any other form of medical care, however, mistakes are possible. With how new telemedicine still is, it’s not always clear as to how telemedicine mistakes are handled in a medical malpractice case.
What Is Telemedicine?
Telemedicine, also referred to as telehealth, is a remote form of medical care that uses audio and video to let patients communicate with a doctor. Depending on the situation, they may be communicating with their primary care physician or a different health care provider. Either way, telemedicine happens in real-time.
This type of medical care is useful when face-to-face consultations aren’t necessary or available. For example, a patient who develops a rash due to poison ivy exposure does not always need to be seen in person. If the doctor can confirm the cause of the rash and the type through a video call, they can order the proper prescription cream or steroid to help the patient manage and treat the condition.
The Need for Virtual Health Care
While today’s concept of telemedicine has been around for over a decade, it has become even more important in recent months amid the COVID-19 pandemic. With many doctor’s offices and hospitals limiting who can be seen and when, patients who have access to telehealth can have their medical concerns addressed more efficiently and without the risk of potential virus exposure.
Virtual health care is beneficial to those who have weakened immune systems, as well as those who experience transportation limitations. Elderly patients are more likely to fall into both of those categories simultaneously. When a patient has the ability to schedule a phone call with their doctor from the comfort of their home, they won’t need to worry about getting to their appointment, navigating a hospital, being exposed to others who are ill, or exposing others to illness.
Common Telemedicine Mistakes
Telemedicine is not suitable for every health care need, and there is the possibility of a physician making a mistake when diagnosing or treating a patient virtually. One of the biggest concerns with telehealth is that patients will generally speak with a health care professional who does not have a specialty in their area of concern. This means they might not accurately identify conditions, which could result in a failure to treat.
In addition to that, there is a concern that physicians and health care providers might perceive their role in telemedicine as less important than their clinic work. Since they are not seeing patients in the traditional manner, it’s possible they could provide substandard care.
There’s also the possibility of doctors and staff making basic mistakes using telehealth technology. Problems with computer programs, digital records, and software limitations are concerns. If a doctor doesn’t understand how to properly use a telemedicine system, they could potentially violate a patient’s rights.
Telehealth Errors and Medical Malpractice
Similar to traditional medical care, there are guidelines and practices that health care providers must follow when offering care virtually—which are crucial to patient safety. When a patient’s health or wellbeing is jeopardized because of a negligent provider, the situation could merit a medical malpractice case.
According to the American Medical Association, out of over 500 malpractice claims from 2019, none involved telemedicine. According to the medical journal, this does not mean that issues and injuries did not occur. Instead, experts believe consumers who were victims of telemedicine malpractice did not decide to take any action. This could have to do with patients having low expectations for telemedicine.
It’s important for patients to understand that the standard of care applies to the telehealth care they receive. In the event a provider breaches that standard and a patient is injured, legal action is available and the provider should be held accountable for their negligence.
Learn About Your Legal Rights and Options in Baltimore
If you believe you were injured as a result of a telemedicine mistake, you may have grounds to file a medical malpractice claim. Due to the nature of med mal cases and the complexities involved with proving a telehealth mistake, it’s important to work with an experienced, reputable law firm. Belsky, Weinberg & Horowitz, LLC represents injury victims in Baltimore and the surrounding areas. To learn more about how we can help you recover financially, schedule a case evaluation today.