As we’ve all heard by now, the advantages of telemedicine are numerous: improved patient outcomes, greater quality of care, and cost efficiencies, to name a few. However, with these gains comes an element of uncertainty. As telemedicine continues to challenge long-held boundaries, legal telemedicine risks are coming to light—such as patient confidentiality, security, and professional licensure portability. As health care providers add telemedicine services to their practices, several factors should be addressed to avoid running afoul of legal considerations.
Many medical malpractice providers exclude coverage for telemedicine services, so practitioners need to make sure they’re covered before starting a telemedicine practice.
Coordination of care
During an in-person visit, it is not uncommon for physicians to consult with each other, exchange information, discuss treatment options, or even disagree on a diagnosis. This typically doesn’t occur in front of the patient, though. Telemedicine changes the dynamics; one doctor may be with the patient at the remote location while another doctor remains at the other end of the call. When the doctors are in two different places, what is the telemedicine equivalent of stepping out of the room? A procedure is needed to give physicians the ability to privately discuss any concerns or disagreement.
As always, proper documentation is crucial—perhaps even more so for acute telemedicine. A detailed explanation of the decision making should be included, as well as indication of the patient’s understanding and consent to receive telemedicine services.
Generally, healthcare providers are required to be licensed in the state in which the patient is located. Some states offer a special license for telemedicine services, and other states permit limited consultations from out-of-state physicians without licensure. It is the practitioner’s responsibility to learn and adhere to each state’s regulation. Unfortunately, as of this writing, there is no single place to find a description of those rules by state. As telemedicine practitioners contemplate a multi-state patient population, they should consider the frequency of the services they will provide and the time and expense of obtaining licensure in multiple states.
With time and due diligence to considerations such as those listed above, healthcare providers can minimize their liability risks and put their focus where it matters most: on the patients.
To read more about minimizing telemedicine risks, visit MedCity News here.