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Telemedicine and medical malpractice claims

Telemedicine is becoming an increasingly popular way for doctors to see and treat patients. It typically involves appointments via video conferencing. Telemedicine can help patients in areas without easy access to hospitals and other medical facilities get care. It allows patients to connect with specialists hundreds and even thousands of miles away. It's also useful when patients aren't able to drive because of their medical condition.

Often, a patient will have an initial in-person appointment with a physician but use video conferencing for follow-ups. Many patients with chronic conditions who need regular check-ups benefit from telemedicine. It can save time and money for both doctors and patients.

If used appropriately, telemedicine shouldn't impact a patient's quality of care. Studies have shown that there's little difference in the level of care provided by video conference compared with in-person visits. Reports of malpractice claims related to telemedical visits have been minimal -- at least in part because the practice is still relatively new. As telemedicine becomes more common, the number of claims is likely to increase.

Telemedicine adds some layers of complexity to malpractice claims. Many physicians' malpractice policies don't even cover telemedicine.

First, there's an issue of which state's malpractice laws prevail if a patient is in one state and the doctor is in another. Further, the concept of "standard of care" is key to malpractice claims. Most states, including Florida, haven't yet developed a separate standard of care for telemedicine.

Doctors who make diagnoses or prescribe medication or courses of treatment based on "seeing" a patient only via a screen may be at greater risk of malpractice liability because they may not have enough information to do these things. Further, looking at a condition like a rash or a mole can be tricky because they may not be getting a clear image.

If you believe that you have a medical malpractice case against a physician who has been treating you remotely and/or against the facility for which they work, it's wise to seek the guidance of an experienced malpractice attorney. While the world of telemedicine is still in its infancy compared to the practice of medicine, which dates back centuries, the law will need to evolve. However, that doesn't mean you can't hold medical professionals liable for malpractice.

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