Emerging Trends in Telehealth May Lead to Gaps in Care and Increased Risk for Medical Malpractice

Telehealth and telemedicine have emerged as alternate forms of virtual care in the past 15 years, but have significantly spiked in recent months due to COVID-19. Patient privacy risks, lower-quality care and even a lack of a physical exam all pose risks to the overall efficacy of telehealth and leave gaps for error and malpractice to occur. The medical malpractice attorneys at Peter Angelos P.C. delve into the trends in telehealth and the risks that telemedicine may pose on patient care and accurate diagnoses.

 

The COVID-19 Pandemic Has Expanded the Need for Telehealth

Telehealth is increasing access to healthcare while reducing patient exposure to viruses and other contagious illnesses. It is particularly beneficial to the most vulnerable of populations, such as the immunocompromised and patients with potential viral infections, such as COVID-19. Patients now have the unique ability to schedule a consultation with a physician in a virtual setting, removing the burden of transportation and allowing for flexible scheduling. Telehealth visits are most often conducted over a cellular device or by video, and from 2019 to 2020 there was a significant spike in the number of older adults who reported that their healthcare providers now offered telehealth consultations. Specifically, telehealth visits from May 2019 to June 2020 increased by 48%.

 

Before COVID-19 emerged, telehealth was a minute but expanding feature of modern day healthcare. Now, with fears of catching the novel coronavirus preventing many older adults from leaving their homes and attending a physical doctor’s appointment, many individuals have resorted to virtual consultations and telehealth visits. While telehealth offers the benefits of flexibility and convenience, it does not come without its limitations and may open up opportunities for a missed diagnosis to occur and other forms of medical malpractice.

 

Telehealth May Increase the Risk for Medical Malpractice to Occur

An August 2020 National Poll on Healthy Aging from the University of Michigan reported that the number of older adults participating in telehealth visits increased sharply, from 4% in May 2019 to 30% in June 2020. 26% of participants also reported that they had a telehealth visit between the periods of March 2020 and June 2020. 

 

Among concerns about telehealth visits, The National Poll on Healthy Aging reported that 75% of healthcare providers were not able to conduct physical exams, and 67% reported that they felt the quality of care was not as high in telehealth visits compared to the traditional, in-person visits. In addition, 24% reported privacy concerns, and 25% reported that they could not properly hear or see the healthcare providers during their virtual visit.

 

In total, of the adults ages 50-80 that participated in the University of Michigan Study, the most common concerns were,

  • The lack of quality care they received,
  • Their overall satisfaction with video technology performance,
  • Their privacy levels discussing personal information over the phone or laptop, and 
  • The lack of personal connection to their healthcare provider in a virtual environment.

 

These gaps in treatment could potentially lead to missed diagnoses or delays in diagnosis. For example, in a white paper by The Doctors Company, the most common allegation recorded among telemedicine insurance claims has been a missed diagnosis, with cancer being the most common health issue that has been missed. Specifically, cancer made up 25% of missed diagnoses, stroke made up 20%, infection made up 20% and orthopedic concerns made up 10%, with another 25% uncategorized.

 

Discuss Your Options with The Medical Malpractice Attorneys at Peter Angelos P.C.

Telehealth demonstrates an unprecedented ability for the healthcare system to swiftly adapt and innovate its practices to accommodate major societal and public health circumstances, such as COVID-19. It very well may become a standard form of care in our healthcare system. However, the limitations that telehealth may pose for doctors to provide fully accurate, in-person and thorough physical examinations may open a door for a spike in missed diagnoses. If you believe that you or a loved one has suffered a missed diagnosis after a telehealth consultation, contact the skilled medical malpractice attorneys at Peter Angelos P.C. Our team of attorneys will fight for you on your behalf. Learn more about our medical malpractice service area here.