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Do telehealth visits put patients at risk for misdiagnosis?

On Behalf of | Nov 2, 2020 | Medical Malpractice

As the need for telehealth visits has risen dramatically in 2020, healthcare providers face new scrutiny as they rely on different data to make a patient diagnosis than they would for in-person doctor’s visits.

This potentially opens them up to malpractice suits if a patient is harmed due to a misdiagnosis, negligent omission, miscommunication or software malfunction. And from 2014 to 2018, 66% of the malpractice claims involving telemedicine were diagnosis-related.

In addition, the Department of Health and Human Services has temporarily relaxed the HIPAA privacy regulations in order to allow more flexibility with doctor-patient communications through a variety of video-conferencing platforms.

This means that there are potential breaches to a patient’s protected health information. As a result, ransomware and phishing scams have increased by 350% since March, exposing the healthcare industry to potential cyber-liability.

How does a misdiagnosis harm the patient?

Healthcare providers owe a duty to their patients of a standard of care, including diagnosis, that is recognized by peer health care professionals, and they must also meet a similarly acceptable standard of medical treatment. This duty is required whether the care is given in-person or virtually.

Even if there has been a miscommunication, not enough information provided by the patient or documents or other missing data such as the patient’s medical history, the doctor is responsible for any diagnosis, treatment or drug prescriptions for medication that he provides to his patient.

A breach of this duty to the patient can result in harm in the form of disability or death, lost wages, pain and suffering and expenses for future medical treatments or drugs. In a successful medical malpractice suit, the medical professional can have his license to practice suspended or revoked and face fines or even imprisonment.

Medical malpractice in New Jersey

There are “joint and several” standards in New Jersey that allow an injured patient to pursue malpractice claims against more than one medical provider, if they are proven to be 60% or more responsible for harm. There are strict rules regarding statute of limitations and caps, and expert testimony from a licensed professional is essential to prove that the accused did not meet the standard of care.

Medical malpractice is notoriously complicated, and having the expertise and experience of legal professionals who have a proven record of litigation in this area will help when pursuing a malpractice claim.