Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many patients have increasingly chosen to avoid in-person visits to their doctor in favor of appointments by telephone or video conferencing. While the convenience that these appointments provide is undeniable, they also come with risks that should be carefully evaluated against their benefits.
WHAT IS TELEMEDICINE?
Telemedicine is the practice of administering healthcare services, such as physician examinations, through video or telephone conferencing technology. While telemedicine has existed since the advent of the Internet, its popularity soared during the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, the CDC reported that 37% of all adults in the United States had used telemedicine in the past 12 months. The appeal of telemedicine is understandable: even before the advent of the pandemic, many of us can relate to the stressful experience of nervously sitting down in a busy waiting room for an annual checkup while surrounded by people with hacking coughs. Telemedicine promises a convenient and seemingly safer alternative to the traditional visit to the doctor’s office.
THE RISKS OF TELEMEDICINE
As the popularity of telemedicine has continued to rise, so too have concerns about the rigor of examinations conducted over the Internet. Many have pointed out that telemedicine does not permit healthcare providers to use all the diagnostic tools available to them when they examine a patient in person. Studies of telemedicine providers have validated some of these concerns. In a 2016 paper, researchers tested randomly selected Telemedicine providers by asking them to diagnosis and treat 62 different simulated dermatology patients. At the end of the study, the paper found that multiple providers treating the “patients” through telemedicine greatly deviated from the acceptable standards of care with several providers failing to diagnosis and treat potentially fatal skin conditions. While convenient, patients need to be aware of the pitfalls of telemedicine and the potentially increased risk of medical malpractice.
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO KNOW?
As a patient, you are entitled to the same standard of care from a telemedicine provider as you would be if you visited a doctor in-person. If a telemedicine physician fails to meet the appropriate standard of care, that physician could be liable under Massachusetts medical malpractice laws. SUGARMAN’s personal injury lawyers have decades of experience representing those who have received substandard medical care resulting in malpractice. If you or a loved one have received medical care telephonically or in person which you believe was substandard and which caused injury, please call us at 617-542-1000 or email our attorneys at email@example.com.