Mistakes in Telemedicine and Prescription Medication
Initially meant to serve patients in remote or rural areas more effectively, the future of telemedicine which distributes health-related services and information via electronic information and telecommunication technologies opens concerns about misdiagnosis and lack of follow-up checks that can lead to patient complaints against licensed healthcare professionals.
Telemedicine’s Growing Popularity
Historically telemedicine technology first began in the late 1960s as a form of healthcare delivery for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the Nebraska Psychology Institute, according to researchers from Saint Louis University and Bentley University. Through the years the technology improved and helped physicians and healthcare systems extend care to rurally located patients.
In 2020 it grew in popularity during the COVID pandemic. According to the CDC report on telehealth use, during the first quarter of 2020, the number of telehealth visits increased by 50%, compared with the same period in 2019. Telemedicine or telehealth has become the new virtual healthcare drive-thru thanks to its ease of diagnosis and treating minor ailments.
If you’re considering adding this service to your facility or healthcare practice, take heed to avoid some of the common mistakes associated with telemedicine.
Telemedicine Pitfalls and Mistakes
Telemedicine is a relatively new phenomenon that allows patients to communicate with practitioners virtually. On its face, Telemedicine seems to be convenient and efficient. Long gone are the days where people spend hours in doctor office waiting rooms to see an overbooked doctor for five minutes.
Telemedicine allows individuals to access professional opinions on demand. Despite the surface-level convenience of Telemedicine, there are underlying drawbacks associated with the new practice.
According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, there are known pitfalls to this virtual appointment, “A telediagnosis session may not capture incidental findings that might otherwise be detected during an in-person visit. Some patients may lack access to the internet or video chat tools. If patients are using a shared computer in a public place, such as the library, they may lack privacy to discuss their medical issues. Additionally, some platforms cannot be made compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, which makes a patient’s personal medical information vulnerable to hacking.”
From a provider’s point of view, there are additional areas where mistakes could occur.
- Prescribing Medication. Failure to have contact with the patient. In these instances, it’s important prior to prescribing medication to any patient, that the healthcare licensed professional has personally consulted with the patient.
- Accessibility for All. Beyond access to the Internet or wifi-enabled devices, some patients lack the technology proficiency to use this method or medical apps.
- Follow-up Appointments. Failure to follow up with patients can lead to potential malpractice claims or liability for inadequate service through telemedicine.
- Misdiagnosis. The lack of face-to-face contact can mean healthcare professionals miss the patient’s symptoms or nonverbal cues which can lead to misdiagnosis and open your license up to malpractice claims or liability for misdiagnosis of telemedicine.
- Insurance Plans. More of a patient responsibility, it’s worth noting some insurance plans don’t cover a virtual service.
Telemedicine Mistakes in Prescriptions
Three Common Mistakes
When issuing prescriptions for patients with which the physician has not made personal contact mistakes can occur. These identified mistakes can put your healthcare license in jeopardy.
- Interactions with other medications. Oftentimes the lack of personal interactions can fail to create an environment where a patient feels comfortable to disclose their medical status or other prescriptions they are currently taking.
- Wrong dose/ wrong medication prescribed.
- Human error for example, mixing up names.
Seeking Legal Counsel About Telemedicine
Prior to entering into any agreement to provide telemedicine services, you may want to consult with an attorney. From patient complaints to malpractice liability, telemedicine can open your healthcare facility and personnel to unwanted risks.
Have questions about your license and telemedicine? Contact the law firm of Howell, Buchan & Strong at 850-877-7776 to set up a FREE, no-obligation consultation. Our firm represents physicians, nurses, psychologists, and other licensed professionals statewide.
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