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Looking at the issue of telemedicine and medical malpractice, P.2

In our previous post, we began discussing both the importance and the risks associated with the increasing practice of telemedicine. While telemedicine holds the promise of increasing health care access for rural communities, there is also the risk of error associated with the practice of telemedicine itself.

The fact that the technology associated with telemedicine can result in certain types of errors makes it all the more important for patients to be fully informed about the process before providing consent to receiving telemedicine services. For providers, there is a duty to comply with informed consent rules as they pertain to the practice of telemedicine, and failure to do so can be an occasion for liability.

Even given informed consent, though, there is still the expectation among patients that telemedicine services will be provided in accordance with established standards of practice, and that providers will take responsibility for their errors. While the available data on medical malpractice liability connected to the practice of telemedicine shows that there is a relatively low incidence of claims, we don't really know enough yet to make any definitive judgments on the matter. The fact is that physicians do make mistakes in the provision of health care services, and telemedicine holds the potential for medical malpractice liability just as ordinary practice, albeit in a way unique to this form of health care delivery.

Patients who have been harmed as a result of poor telemedicine care should not necessarily assume that they have a viable medical malpractice claim, though. The best first step is always to consult with an experienced medical malpractice attorney to have the case evaluated and determine one's options. From there, a patient can then decide the course of action that makes the most sense in his or her case.

Sources:

FierceHealthIT.com, "Informed consent central to telehealth, poses challenges," Susan D. Hall, June 21, 2013.

Medscape.com, "Do virtual patient visits increase your risk of being sued?," Neil Chesanow, Oct. 22, 2014.

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