Although telemedicine isn’t new, it has become a popular alternative to in-person medical visits during the COVID-19 pandemic. While this option is more convenient than an in-office appointment, it also carries a risk of misdiagnosis, incorrect treatment, and more. So what happens if your doctor’s mistake during your telemedicine appointment leads to an injury or further illness?
At Gladstein Law Firm, PLLC, our experienced medical negligence attorney can help determine whether you have a valid claim. Here, we will discuss telemedicine and its relation to medical malpractice claims as well as the proof you need to have a successful claim.
What Is Telemedicine?
Telemedicine is any electronic exchange of medical information. While the most common form of telemedicine is a medical visit between a patient and their physician over video or audio, there are other forms as well. For example, any electronic communication used to explain the results of a test, such as a radiology report, also counts as telemedicine. Essentially, any medical information communicated to the patient when they aren’t in the same room as their doctor is considered a form of telemedicine.
What Is Medical Malpractice?
Medical malpractice is when a doctor makes a negligent mistake resulting in harm to their patient. There are several ways a doctor may harm a patient, including but not limited to:
- Misdiagnosing a patient’s condition,
- Ignoring a patient’s comments and concerns about their condition,
- Performing the wrong type of surgery on a patient,
- Causing avoidable injuries to a patient during surgery,
- Giving a patient an incorrect dose of medication, and
- Failing to diagnose a patient within a timely manner.
Unfortunately, medical malpractice is more common than we’d like to think. According to a study published by John Hopkins University, medical malpractice is the third leading cause of death in the United States. It estimates that approximately 250,000 people die annually due to medical mistakes, only being surpassed by heart disease and cancer.
How a Telemedicine Visit May Lead to a Medical Malpractice Claim
Even though the popularity of telemedicine is gaining traction, doctors are less likely to use it for complex cases. Typically, your doctor may use telemedicine to go over test results, complete a routine checkup, or write a prescription. These visits are low risk and aren’t likely to lead to a medical malpractice issue. However, there is still a chance that your doctor may write an incorrect prescription or make a misdiagnosis after a telemedicine visit.
Whatever the case may be, your telemedicine visit will most likely be documented by your doctor. While phone calls were the preferred method a few years ago, many practices now use secure video chat to conduct their visits. The technology used for these video chats must comply not only with HIPAA, but also any applicable state regulations. In addition, many doctors have the option of posting notes about your visit in your electronic file. Most patients can access copies of their files through a secure online system as well. This documentation is necessary if a medical malpractice lawsuit arises from your treatment.
The most common instance of medical malpractice involving telemedicine is a doctor prescribing medication over state lines. In some cases, doctors may not prescribe medication to a patient across state lines without an in-office examination. However, this is still a relatively new area of medical malpractice and depends on the unique circumstances of each case.
The Four Elements of a Medical Malpractice Claim
While telemedicine visits have a lower risk of injury than other interactions with your doctor, it is still possible for the doctor to make a mistake. If you decide to file a medical malpractice claim, there are four elements you must prove in your case: duty, breach, causation, and damages.
This is perhaps the easiest element to prove in a medical malpractice case. Simply put, you must show that you had an established relationship with your doctor and that they owed you a duty of care. This means that the doctor has acknowledged you as their patient and that the malpractice occurred under those circumstances.
Once you establish that you and your doctor had an existing doctor/patient relationship, you must prove that your doctor breached their duty of care. In medical malpractice, this usually means that the doctor performed below the acceptable standard of care for their profession. In most cases, the doctor’s care is compared to that of a medical professional with similar training in the same situation.
If your doctor breached their duty of care, you must show that their breach caused your injury or illness. This is one of the most difficult aspects of a medical malpractice case. It’s not uncommon for a doctor to make a mistake and remedy it before the patient experiences symptoms.
After proving the first three elements of your case, you must show that you experienced damages or losses as a result of the malpractice. For example, if the injury caused by your doctor requires you to have surgery, the cost may be included in your claim.
For any medical malpractice claim, whether it’s the result of an in-person or telemedicine visit, the patient must prove each of these elements. At Gladstein Law Firm, PLLC, our Louisville, KY medical negligence lawyer will do everything he can to fight for the compensation you need to recover.
Discuss Your Case with a Medical Negligence Attorney Today
Whenever you visit the doctor, you put your trust in medical professionals to provide you with the best treatment possible. Once they break that trust, it can be hard to find the help you need. At Gladstein Law Firm, PLLC, we are dedicated to making your interests our top priority. We offer a free initial consultation and don’t charge any fees unless we win your case. To speak with our Louisville medical negligence lawyer, give us a call at 502-791-9000 or contact us online.