Patients: be aware of the risks involved in telemedicine care

In a previous post, we noted that there are certain risks for patients who make use of telehealth or telemedicine care. Proponents of telemedicine say it is a relatively low liability area of practice given that it isn’t going to commonly be used as a way of addressing complicated or high- risk conditions.

There may be some truth to these claims, but it is also true that errors can still occur in the practice of telemedicine. Physicians can still miss diagnoses or misdiagnose. They may still prescribe incorrect medications or make other errors regarding dosage. There may also be additional risk when receiving such services from a physician who doesn’t know the patient’s medical history and who has never seen the patient in person.

Telemedicine practice may provide better access to needed health care services, and this will certainly be a benefit to those who would otherwise go without health care. Patients still need to be aware of the risks and work with an experienced attorney when they are seriously harmed by a negligent physician’s errors in the course of telemedicine care.

One interesting finding of the study referenced in the above link is that the frequency with which physicians involved in telemedicine deviate from clinical practice guidelines varies significantly from provider to provider, just as occurs with in-office visits. Failure to follow a clinical practice guideline doesn’t, of course, always result in harm to the patient, nor does it always mean the doctor is in the wrong, but it can be an indication that the physician is acting with negligence toward the patient.

Whether health care is delivered electronically or in person, patients have the right to receive standard quality medical care. When a physician fails to follow an accepted standard of care and harms the patient as a result, the patient has the right to seek compensation in court. Those who have suffered harm as a result of telemedicine or standard medical care should work with an experienced attorney to have their case evaluated and to determine whether pursuing litigation is appropriate.