Using mobile technologies to monitor, treat and diagnose patients present great opportunities for physicians. But before quickly boarding on the telehealth bandwagon, physicians must be aware of potential legal risks and ramifications. Some of the key areas according to experts includes:
- Being Licensed. The general idea regarding treating and diagnosing patients remotely is that the physician should be licensed in the state where the patient is situated; this in turn creates difficulties in providing the service and it may require the indulgence of a telehealth attorney.
- Consultation exceptions. Physicians who are licensed in one state are allowed by some states to provide consultation in their states. Regardless of them not being licensed in their states. In States that don’t allow this, physicians are often limited to a certain number they qualify for consultation exception.
- Emergency exceptions. For instance in an emergency situation, a patient is coding and the doctor requires another doctor’s advice, the doctor may be able to provide the advice remotely rather than being their physically.
- Special telemedicine license exceptions. This comes about when a state grants the doctor a special or temporary license to provide telemedicine services in that state but only nine states in the U.S. offer this type of special licenses.
- Endorsement of Licenses. This occurs when one state recognizes another states license. Allowing the physician to practice telemedicine with little or no obstacle. Majority of states haven’t adopted this.
- Malpractice and general liability. Doctors should also consider malpractice risk in addition to licensure restrictions in reference to telemedicine.
According to experts, Telemedicine is known to raise eyebrows in regards to when the relationship between the doctor and the patient were created. For example, is the relationship between the doctor and patient already established even before they meet face to face? What if the care service the doctor provides is only through the internet?
In many telehealth situations, the doctor/patient relationship is already established even before they meet face to face. “The relationship has been established but in most cases the doctor lacks sufficient information about the patient to make fine diagnosis.” Due to the lack of sufficient patient information, cases of doctors giving inadequate diagnosis are on the rise contributing to legal problems that may require the intervention of telemedicine attorneys.
- Insurance Coverage. This is a big one for physicians to keep in mind: Many malpractice insurers don’t cover telemedicine. In fact, many insurance contracts have provisions restricting doctors who aren’t licensed in jurisdictions where the services are being provided. The role of a telehealth attorneys is very important to try avoiding and mitigating these legal risks that may result to bad outcomes for the patient, doctor and the whole health sector.