Health care is obviously a critical resource for all Americans, especially those with serious health conditions which require ongoing care. Coming up with ways that all people might have access to health care has clearly been a big subject for discussion in recent years, and the debate continues even with the passage of the Affordable Care Act.
Not only are there financial barriers to rural Americans receiving the health care they need, but also access issues. One particular area of concern when it comes to access to health care is rural Americans. One of the potential solutions to the problem of access is telemedicine, which is the provision of health care services over the wire. Although telemedicine could never replace in-person doctor visits, there is general agreement that it can help address some of the access problem faced in rural communities.
There are a number of barriers that have come up in the growth of telemedicine, including licensing and insurance issues, as well as patient consent and education. Consent, specifically informed consent, is critical in any doctor-patient interaction. Patients have a right to be informed of the benefits and risks of the various courses of treatment available to them under the circumstances.
While informed consent is commonplace in the practice of medicine, the process by which informed consent is obtained can become an occasion for medical malpractice liability if a physician doesn’t go about it the right way. In our next post, we’ll speak a bit more about the issue of informed consent and medical malpractice in telemedicine.