Telehealth: the Pros and Risks to the Providers and the Receivers

During the COVID-19 pandemic, people had to stay indoors; there were limitations on hospital visitation. As a result, people jumped more on telehealth for medical consultations and treatments. Telehealth, also called telemedicine, delivers medical care through electronic communication like phone conversations, video conferencing, email, and text messages.

“Getting medical consultation and treatment online without the stress of visiting a doctor comes with some benefits but may not be the best in some situations,” says Berkowitz Hanna Malpractice & Injury Lawyers. Even as the pandemic fades, the convenience of seeing a healthcare practitioner without leaving the house has grown in popularity.

However, adopting telehealth to replace an in-person doctor visit has its drawbacks. If administered incorrectly or negligently, it poses a high risk of inflicting harm or worsening patient condition, thus raising medical malpractice lawsuits against providers.

Telehealth Delivery Options

There are three types of telehealth delivery services: synchronous, asynchronous, and remote patient monitoring. In synchronous telehealth, patients and providers employ real-time engagement and feedback typically done over the phone or through an online video chat. This remote option is the most like traditional scenario where the doctor and patient can converse via questions and answers while watching the patient.

In asynchronous (store and forward) telehealth, the medical office or lab gathers samples or imaging tests and sends them to patient doctors. The doctors can then view the information remotely and refer to the data later.

In remote patient monitoring, patients do not need to visit a medical office since there is the tracking of the patients. Here, many remote monitoring gadgets are available to keep track of a patient health and vital signs while they go about their regular activities. For example, if a patient expresses concern about the heart, the doctor could use a remote cardiac monitor to assess the results.

Benefits of Telehealth

There are many benefits of using telehealth. Some of these benefits include :

#1. Convenience

Patients frequently spend hours of their day in the course of visiting a doctor. In some circumstances, leaving home to get medical assistance is not worth it. For example, the rain or snow is heavy.

The benefits of telehealth start with ease of use. Patients can be diagnosed from their houses using telehealth, and a nearby pharmacy can receive the medications right away. The strategy does not only save time; it allows people in rural locations to receive medical attention whenever they need it.

#2. Saves Money

When doctors and patients use telehealth, both save money. It saves patients the financial expenses of typical doctor visits. Doctors do not lose money due to cancellations.

Sometimes, cash-only telehealth service is less expensive for patients than the traditional walk-in clinic visit. Doctors also benefit from telehealth reimbursement they may not otherwise see during off-hours appointments.

#3. Infectious Disease Control and Family Connections

Doctors can use telehealth consultations to prescreen patients for probable infectious diseases to help reduce the spread of COVID-19, flu, and other infections. It eliminates the need for sick people to come into the office; with telehealth, everyone benefits from less exposure to infectious diseases.

There is an advantage of having a family member present during a consultation with a doctor; can assist provide information, asking questions, and taking notes. If you approve it, telehealth can include a family member in the virtual visit even when that person lives out of town.

Risks of Telehealth that Could Lead to Medical Malpractice Claim

While telemedicine has its advantages, it does pose some technological and practical risks to health providers and recipients (patients). Some of these risks include:

#1. Risks relating to Scanning Medical Records Electronically

The transcription of physical and handwritten medical records to digital formats is one of the growing challenges for telehealth. Many medical records are kept on computers and updated regularly. However, some medical documents and notes are still handwritten.

Hospitals and medical offices may strive to convert handwritten notes to a digital version in the future for easy storage and retrieval. Unfortunately, non-medical experts in other countries handle some of the transcriptions. Outsourcing transcriptions can lead to transcription errors and medical malpractice.

Transcription errors entail miscommunication or mistranslation. Transcribing a simple medical prescription improperly might result in the incorrect dosage, drug, mode of administration, and frequency. Medical injuries might occur as a result of handwriting errors or wrong transcription.

#2. Technology Errors

Telehealth is primarily reliant on technological advancements. All technology, however, is susceptible to mistakes, glitches, and connectivity issues. Technology problems can hamper the communication between the providers and recipients, thereby affecting treatment.

Technological problems include poor video chat connections, corrupted data in asynchronous test interpretation, and mixing up files. Dropped connections, messages going to spam, damaged data, delivering the wrong files, and hacked accounts are all technical issues in telehealth.

#3. Doctors Becoming Overworked

Many healthcare organizations are utilizing telehealth to boost doctor workload. If a doctor can attend to a patient online in minutes, the doctor may be assigned dozens of patients per hour. The doctor can become stressed out for a day or week due to the ongoing workload.

Healthcare companies measure care in terms of money and time. It might lead to inflated expectations about how many patients, files, and reviews a physician can handle on a given day. Having overworked doctors can raise the likelihood of medical errors, which can have catastrophic repercussions for patients.

Filing a Telehealth Medical Malpractice

The majority of the time, a treatment plan does not go as planned, and it may result in harm or further damage. When this occurs, the victim has the legal right to file a medical malpractice claim to seek justice and compensation for their injuries. However, it is crucial to note that not every bad medical outcome is medical malpractice.

For it to be medical malpractice, your case must include the following:

  • You and the healthcare provider had a professional relationship
  • When diagnosing or treating you, the healthcare provider did not follow the accepted standards of care
  • The negligent actions or inaction of the healthcare providers caused your injury
  • Your injury resulted in monetary and other losses

It is up to you to prove these criteria if you bring a medical malpractice claim. That is why, before filing a claim, you should consult with a medical malpractice attorney. Working with a competent attorney ensures that your case is well-constructed and that you have sufficient evidence to back up your claims.

Final Thought

Before choosing telehealth over a face-to-face visit, patients should know the benefits and drawbacks of telehealth. There is no doubt that telehealth can successfully handle some health conditions. But, it is advisable to visit the doctor for illness or accidents that require a physical checkup instead of choosing telehealth.