How Does Telemedicine Impact Malpractice Risks

Telemedicine is making it possible for patients to receive medical care from an increasing number of sources, but the convenience remote healthcare offers come with numerous risks for patients that could lead to serious injury or death.

The Practice, Promise, and Risks of Remote Care

Telemedicine enables patients to receive a diagnosis, prescriptions, continuous medical care or specialist referrals via text message, digital photography or video conferencing software. Patients can receive an assessment from a doctor who may be hundreds, if not thousands of miles away. Remote care saves time and money and leads to expedited treatment.

The Medicare Telehealth Parity Act of 2015 made it possible for Medicare patients to receive this kind of care, and in the process cemented the credibility of telemedicine practice nationwide. It also established basic guidelines for the provision of remote care.

There are many potential pitfalls and risks to receiving telemedical care. A physician cannot physically examine a patient or photographs/video feeds may be blurry making it difficult to arrive at an accurate assessment and proper diagnosis of potentially life-threatening medical conditions. Furthermore, the video feed or electronic records of the meeting could become compromised, thus exposing the individual’s medical history and records to cyber thieves.

Another common problem is that patients may receive care from physicians outside of their state who are not licensed to practice in their state. This can expose patients to a considerable risk of personal injury and creates a strong potential for fraud and medical malpractice.

Telemedicine in Illinois

Illinois has adopted the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact. This makes it possible for physicians to apply for and receive authorization to practice medicine across state lines. However, the Illinois Medical Board has not issued practice standards for physicians to follow when providing this care beyond those already set forth under the Medical Practice Act. While there are established baselines in place, there is still significant latitude for doctors who engage in offering telemedicine services. For consumers, this creates significant risks to health and safety that may outweigh the convenience and cost savings remote healthcare can offer.