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How Does Telemedicine Impact Healthcare?

Legally Reviewed and Edited by: Terry Cochran

With the creation and expansion of technology, there has opened up a huge opportunity for medical service to the elderly and those people living in rural areas. However, medical malpractice lawyers have become aware of some of the gaps that have surfaced while the practice of telemedicine is being implemented. In general it is a benefit, but it is also in the best interests of patients to identify the drawbacks and limitations.
Telemedicine made its debut in the 1950s, and since then doctors and hospitals have been communicating with patients via computer, and they can share medical reports and specialized readings using special programs and equipment designed for this service. This has made it possible for patients to meet with their physician from their living room.

Components of Telemedicine

The basic definition of telemedicine is the remote delivery of medical services. This can be more clearly defined by mentioning three different types of practices. The first is interactive medicine, which is real time discussions between a patient and their physician via the internet. The second provides for the storage and forwarding of medical information between the patient and the doctor, and the third is remote patient monitoring which allows for immediate medical reports online using specialized equipment.
The set-up and operation of telemedicine services can be simple or more complex. In some cases, it is as easy as turning on the computer and using SKYPE or Facetime to hold a meeting. In a more sophisticated setting, the situation may require a telemedicine kit that includes a computer, special software, and other special devices for monitoring the patient’s progress.

The Benefits of Telemedicine

There are several reasons why patients and doctors like using the telemedicine approach. There is no lost time traveling a long distance or more time wasted waiting in the waiting room. Doctors are not thrown off schedule when a patient cannot make it, and if the patient is too ill they can still be seen by the doctor. The use of telemedicine also reduces the amount of paperwork and makes treatment more efficient for distant patients.
One of the best benefits is the fact that doctors can get a second opinion on a medical question by tuning in another physician via a secure channel. This can be very important if immediate action is required to assist the patient and maybe even save the patient’s life.
Generally, in this modern age of computer use, patients like the idea of immediate service from their own home, However, there are still some who prefer to one-to-one contact with their physician, and these people may not be happy. Studies have shown that the use of telemedicine has improved medical care, especially for the elderly and those in rural areas, and that the follow-up with treatments and consultations is much more regular.

Telemedicine healthcare

Are There Areas for Malpractice?

Currently, there are only a few cases where there has been litigation regarding the practice of telemedicine. However, certain areas of risk for doctors and patients have started to surface now that telemedicine is more widespread. In Michigan, prisoners in state institutions have claimed federal violations of medical neglect while being treated using a distant doctor and a computer. They have claimed a “deliberate indifference to a serious medical need.”
In this case, there is no direct violation of any constitutional rights, but the allegations could support medical malpractice or suit for negligence. The services of a hospital negligence lawyer will be needed to follow the particulars in this type of litigation.
One of the benefits of telemedicine is the ability of doctors to offer services to patients in rural and distant locations. However, one thing the doctors need to keep in mind is the scope of their medical licensing, and whether they are crossing state lines where telemedicine may have different rules and regulations. Most malpractice suits in telemedicine have been the doctor’s prescribing medicines to treat the patient, and the patient seeking to fill the prescription at a pharmacy in a different state or patients being prescribed medicine and equipment they didn’t need. The real question is whether the law of the state where the physician is licensed is the governing regulation, or if the laws of the other state’s authority set the regulations for practice.

Final Thoughts

The treatment of patients in a medical setting is still a personal experience. New technology has made it possible for doctors to treat patients from a distance and in the comfort of their own homes. However, the current unknowns within the practice leave the door open for medical malpractice. The law firm of Cochran, Kroll, & Associates, P.C., has all the latest reports and information regarding telemedicine practices. If you have a question, we can help. Contact our law firm at 866-MICH-LAW for a free consultation.

Disclaimer : The information provided is general and not for legal advice. The blogs are not intended to provide legal counsel and no attorney-client relationship is created nor intended.

Tristan is a professional writer and had careers as a teacher of English, school administrator, and as a broker in real estate sales. He has gained a great deal of legal experience through his service as the president of a teacher's union, a member of the board for a real estate association, and as the chairman of the Government Affairs Committee for the real estate board of directors. Before beginning a full-time job as a freelance writer, he was the Executive Director of the Global Business Alliance for a local Chamber of Commerce and sat on the Government Affairs Committee for the Chamber.



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