The use of telemedicine or telehealth services in Indiana has increased exponentially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Questions about negligence, errors or malpractice, however, continue to linger.
Telemedicine is the use of telecommunication to address a patient’s medical concerns. Indiana has a robust telemedicine network, which has been in place way before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Telemedicine allows for real time, virtual, face-to-face communication between the patient and the doctor. This allows patients to access medical care when they are in remote areas and unable to travel.
In the case of the pandemic, however, it has become the way a majority of Indianapolis residents access medical care. Stuck with shelter- in- place rules and with many clinics and hospitals wary of seeing patients who could potentially be coronavirus carriers, the use of telemedicine to access medical care has increased. The increase has been staggering across the country, and especially in cities in Indiana that have seen a substantial number of COVID-19 cases.
There is enough evidence to suggest that telemedicine is here to stay, or at least until a vaccine is found. Social distancing measures are likely to last well beyond the next few months, making it imperative that patients get access to medical advice in a safe and remote manner.
However, the fact is also that telemedicine does not come without risk. Many medical conditions do require in–person or on-site medical visits. Medical treatment online may be susceptible to errors for a number for reasons.
A virtual exam may not be sufficient for the health care provider to come to an accurate diagnosis and help him prescribe medication for the condition. Diagnostic errors are some of the biggest risks with telemedicine. A doctor practicing telemedicine may have insufficient medical history of the patient, possibly increasing the risks of a misdiagnosis or a drug interaction.
There may be inaccuracies in patient medical records, and this may, in turn contribute to errors. Besides, there is a risk that doctors who have been reprimanded for poor conduct or care will seek positions in telemedicine, delivering substandard care to patients.
As the use of telemedicine booms, healthcare providers and health authorities in Indiana must work to make the experience safe for patients.