The growth of telehealth has grown exponentially since the advent of the pandemic. A 2017 study reported that only 18% of Americans used online technology for medical purposes. But COVID-19 changed all that. Spending on telehealth services exploded from $306 million in 2019 to $3.7 billion by the end of 2020.
Many people are quick to point out the benefits of telehealth: expanding access, especially for those in rural areas, reduced patient wait times, and increased physical safety. But new data shows an alarming increase in medical malpractice claims. A government-funded study outlined the three primary hazards of telehealth.
Wrong or missed diagnoses are at the top of the list. The study showed that 45% of telehealth medical malpractice claims are related to the misdiagnosis of cancer, infection and stroke. Poor video or audio streams can significantly affect a doctor’s assessment, leading to a greater chance of miscommunication with patients and medical mistakes.
Telehealth relies on technology, and vulnerable data systems are potential reasons for malpractice claims. Providers, hospitals, clinics and others are required to guard your personal info from hackers. They must also maintain and update software used in accurately diagnosing your condition.
Healthcare facilities must follow HIPAA privacy laws whether they see you in person or over the internet. Many video conferencing systems do not meet HIPAA requirements, increasing the risk of phishing scams and ransomware attacks. The latter has increased by 350% since the beginning of the pandemic.
Convenience shouldn’t include increased risks
The Hippocratic Oath isn’t just a quaint old saying. Most medical schools still administer the oath to graduates, and the American Medical Association embraces it as an invaluable moral guide. The oath has four pillars to benefit and respect patients and, above all else, do no harm. When doctors or medical institutions violate those principles, holding them legally responsible is crucial.