Telemedicine and Medical Malpractice Claims: What You Need to Know

The idea of telemedicine is not new. Technology has reached a point where it is feasible for patients to regularly interact with their physicians through wireless means. However, since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, the popularity and use of telemedicine has dramatically increased. However, what happens if a doctor or other medical professional makes a mistake while administering care through telemedicine? Here, we want to discuss medical malpractice claims in the realm of telemedicine.

When do medical malpractice cases arise?

In general, medical malpractice cases arise when a doctor makes a mistake that causes harm to a patient. That is a very simplistic definition, and obviously these cases become very complex. However, medical mistakes happen more often than most people realized. According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, medical mistakes are the third leading cause of death in the United States, killing approximately 250,000 people each year.

With the rapid increase in the use of and reliance on telemedicine, many people are wondering what happens if a medical professional makes a mistake while conducting treatment through telemedicine methods. Right now, there are very few legal options that specifically address telemedicine malpractice.

Telemedicine likely means low liability

In general, telemedicine health visits are more likely to occur when it comes to routine checkups and prescription-writing. It is unlikely that any physician or other medical professional will use telemedicine to handle a complex or high-risk procedure. Because telemedicine health visits are likely to handle lower-risk treatments, the reality of a viable medical malpractice lawsuit arising due to a telemedicine visit is more unlikely than an in-person visit.

Telemedicine provides more documentation

Many telemedicine services, particularly in the past, would involve a patient speaking to their physician over the phone. The physician would then sometimes call in a prescription without ever documenting the conversation. This could become a liability, at least for the physician, if the patient does have an adverse reaction, and there is no documentation explaining why the physician prescribed it in the first place.

However, new telemedicine technology makes use of secure video chat platforms and often provide a place to capture notes from the visit. This provides better documentation for both the patient and the doctor that they can refer to if something does go wrong.

What are the basic elements of a medical malpractice claim?

Regardless of whether or not telemedicine is lower liability than other types of interactions with physicians, the reality is that the basic elements of a malpractice claim will remain the same. In order for a person to have a viable medical malpractice lawsuit, they will need to prove the following four elements of their case:

  • Duty. There will need to be an established doctor / patient relationship. This is generally not difficult to prove, particularly if the doctor and patient have a history together and had a scheduled appointment.
  • Breach. It will need to be shown that the medical professional breached their duty of care owed to the patient. This generally means that the medical professional performed below the acceptable standard of care for their field. Attorneys will examine whether or not the medical professional acted in a way that a similarly trained medical professional would have acted in the same situation.
  • Causation. If the medical professional did breach their duty owed to the patient, it still needs to be proven that this breach of duty caused the patient’s injury or illness. This can be difficult. In some cases, mistakes are made and remedied before a patient experiences any adverse effects.
  • Damages. Finally, it needs to be shown that the patient experienced some sort of monetary loss due to their injuries or illness caused by the mistake.

These same elements will apply in any telemedicine malpractice case that could arise. It is strongly advised that you seek assistance from a skilled Louisville medical malpractice attorney if you or a loved one have been harmed after a telemedicine visit.