It’s hard to deny that the cost of health care can be a burden on many families in the U.S. In fact, according to a survey by the University of Chicago and the West Health Institute, 44% of people don’t go to the doctor when they are sick and 40% don’t get recommended treatments due to the cost burden.
With concerns over time and cost, remote medicine or telemedicine, which is known in a broader sense as telehealth, is becoming increasingly popular. While the idea of seeing a doctor on your computer or smartphone may seem like an easy, low-cost form of medical care, the fact of the matter is that there may be some inherent problems attached to this type of care that could lead to severe consequences.
What is the difference between Telemedicine and Telehealth?
Telemedicine and telehealth are terms that are often used interchangeably, but vary in what they actually cover. Both represent healthcare that is provided virtually without physical contact with a healthcare provider. A patient will describe complaints virtually, usually by video conferencing, and the provider will give a diagnosis or recommendation.
Telemedicine is considered a clinical application of technology, while telehealth encompasses a broader, consumer-facing approach. This could be a collection of means or methods to reach a health outcome as opposed to something strictly clinical. The uses of telehealth cross most health service disciplines from counseling to physical therapy to clinical medicine. With telehealth, there may be more of an emphasis on wellness and care management versus clinical diagnoses.
What are the problems with Telehealth and Telemedicine?
One of the first problems with these areas of technology is in the definition. As stated above, many organizations have different definitions of each. This can cause some confusion when trying to decipher just what kind of service a patient has been treated with electronically.
In a telemedicine visit, a provider may see a patient via video conference and a patient presenter will be physically present with the patient. The patient presenter may use an exam camera or stethoscope on the patient’s body by following directions from the doctor on video. Without the doctor being present in the room, it’s easy to see how this scenario could create issues if the patient feels that they were examined incorrectly.
Many states have not established a standard of care for telemedicine, so it is difficult to say what, exactly, is a proper standard of care. This can become problematic when a patient claims that they were not treated to a certain standard, which may vary from state to state and depend on the medical discipline.
Additionally, if a provider gives an incorrect diagnosis or prescription based on a telehealth visit, the likelihood of a medical malpractice case increases. Because of the undetermined requirements for telehealth and telemedicine and because there may be an incomplete exam of the patient due to the nature of the remote technology, there may be a higher chance of misdiagnosis.
Fraud and abuse may also arise with the increased usage of telehealth. Patients should be careful to verify the credentials of any provider they use over technology. With regards to abuse, the definitions are vague. What constitutes virtual abuse? It can be hard to determine whether a patient is the victim of medical abuse over technology, but as with any form of medicine, patients should be extremely cautious when interacting with a telehealth provider.
Medical malpractice cases are incredibly complex and may become even more challenging to navigate with a rise in the use of telehealth and telemedicine. If you feel that you have been the victim of medical malpractice, you should contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney who can assist you with your case.
Panter. (2018, May 18). Potential Telehealth and Telemedicine Legal Issues. Retrieved from https://youtube.com/watch?v=0vnBL_IQfUg&t=57s
MHealthIntelligence. (2016, June 03). Is There a Difference between Telemedicine and Telehealth? Retrieved from https://mhealthintelligence.com/features/is-there-a-difference-between-telemedicine-and-telehealth
Diagnosing Telemedicine Liabilities and Risks. (2016, October 12). Retrieved from https://corpsyn.com/telemedicine-liability/