Father with his daughter during a Telehealth appointment

Risks of Medical Malpractice in Telehealth

By Greg Kohn

Telehealth appointments help patients and doctors conserve their time and save money. However, telehealth appointments are not completely devoid of risk. Healthcare workers need to understand the risks posed by telehealth appointments and do everything in their power to protect patients. Unfortunately, this doesn’t happen in all cases.

A New Jersey medical malpractice attorney can help you determine if you have any viable legal claims against a hospital, physician, or other party. Hospitals often employ doctors as independent contractors to reduce their exposure to liability, and you should consult a knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney in New Jersey so you can understand the scope of your legal rights. 

Defining Telehealth Practice 

Telehealth refers to many different activities, including the following: 

  • The use of remote monitoring devices to analyze a patient’s physical condition 
  • Secure messaging systems through which patients and physicians communicate with each other
  • Live discussions between a healthcare provider and a patient through a telephone call or video session 

Unfortunately, doctors who engage in telehealth sessions may not have access to all the information they need to diagnose or treat the patient. Also, a medical specialist may not be available to consult with a patient, and therefore a general practitioner may not recognize the symptoms caused by a patient’s disease or illness. 

State Law and Medical Licensing 

Patients and medical providers need to understand the importance of verifying their respective locations when scheduling telehealth appointments. Each state has its own licensing apparatus for physicians and other medical professionals. Also, many states participate in Interstate Medical Licensure Compacts. These agreements permit physicians to conduct telehealth appointments in several different states. 

HIPAA Compliance and Privacy Rights 

Patients need to feel assured that their privacy will remain protected before, during, and after telehealth appointments. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) is integral to effective medical treatment via telehealth services. Patient information must be kept confidential. Many medical malpractice claims may arise due to mishandling of confidential patient information. 

What Does Medical Malpractice Look Like in a Telehealth Setting?

Medical malpractice in telehealth involves the failure of a healthcare provider to meet the standard of care while delivering medical advice or treatment over telecommunication technologies. This can include various forms of negligence or errors just as in traditional in-person healthcare settings, but with specific challenges and scenarios unique to telehealth. Some examples include:

1. Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis: Due to limitations in telehealth technologies, such as the inability to conduct physical examinations or the poor quality of transmitted images or sounds, healthcare providers may misdiagnose a condition or fail to diagnose it in a timely manner.

2. Prescription Errors: These can occur if a healthcare provider prescribes the wrong medication or dosage without a proper examination or fails to consider a patient’s medical history and current medications, which might be more likely without an in-person consultation.

3. Failure to Obtain Informed Consent: Providers must ensure that patients are fully informed about the risks and benefits of telehealth services, including the limitations of telehealth technologies. Failure to do so can lead to claims of not obtaining proper informed consent.

4. Technical Issues: Problems with the telehealth platform, such as poor video/audio quality, data breaches, or system failures, can lead to miscommunication, loss of critical health information, or privacy concerns, potentially compromising patient care.

5. Breach of Privacy and Confidentiality: Telehealth must comply with health information privacy laws. Any unauthorized access, use, or disclosure of patient information can constitute malpractice.

6. Cross-border Licensing Issues: When a healthcare provider offers telehealth services across state or national borders, they must be licensed in the patient’s location. Practicing without proper licensure can lead to malpractice claims.

7. Failure to Follow-up: In a telehealth setting, there might be a higher risk of failing to provide appropriate follow-up care. This could be due to miscommunications or the inherent limitations in monitoring patient health remotely.

To mitigate these risks, healthcare providers offering telehealth services must adhere to best practices, maintain effective communication with patients, ensure their technology meets the necessary standards, and comply with all relevant laws and regulations.

Proving Medical Malpractice By a Telehealth Provider

To prove a medical practice claim, an injured victim must satisfy four elements: duty, breach, causation, and damages. It is vital that you sit down and review any medical records, medical bills, and other documents you possess that can support your legal claims. The evidence you possess can help your attorney understand what other records they need to review to assess your potential medical malpractice case. 

If you have questions about the evidence used to substantiate each element, then you should speak to a New Jersey medical malpractice attorney. Contact us today for a consult to determine your rights.

About the Author
Greg Kohn is a partner at Nagel Rice and specializes in complex civil litigation cases, including professional malpractice, personal injury, class actions, wrongful death, products liability, and commercial litigation.  He has extensive experience representing clients in both state and federal court. Greg has tried many jury trials to verdict and has recovered over $50 million in settlements and verdicts in all types of personal injury matters including automobile accidents, wrongful death cases, slip and falls, and other catastrophic injury cases. Greg also handles medical malpractice cases, involving misdiagnoses, wrongful birth, and delayed cancer diagnosis. If you have questions regarding this article, you can contact Greg here.