With the ever-changing state of medicine, more and more health care professionals are beginning to work from remote locations. From doctors to assistants and even recruiters for remote physicians, the use of telemedicine seems to be growing in acceptance among the physician community. A doctor from across town can videoconference and consult with other physicians and patients, a physician in another state can monitor aspects of live surgery, a radiologist in another country can read an X-Ray and deliver a diagnosis. According to the American Hospital Association, 76 percent of hospitals in the United States were connecting with patients and consulting practitioners through the use of video and other technology in 2017, the latest year for which statistics were available. That was an increase from 35 percent just seven years earlier. But with this “off-site” practice of medicine also comes risks. In some cases, patients have been seriously injured or even killed because of medical mistakes committed from far away.
The Increased Use of Telemedicine
Telemedicine is one of the faster developments in information technology and communications. It's a tool in providing health care to individuals, especially in critical situations. It delivers health services, where distance and time is a significant factor by professionals using information and communication technology for knowledge regarding diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of diseases. Telemedicine is used to assist with preventative measures and medication, treatment and surgical procedures and for rehabilitation. Telemedicine can be categorized into three main classifications: remote patient monitoring, store-and-forward and interactive telemedicine. Remote patient monitoring, also known as telemonitoring, is a mobile medical device that collects data about blood sugar levels, blood pressure or other vital signs for patients with chronic diseases while being monitored in their homes; remote caregivers can analyze the data instantly. Store-and-forward, also known as asynchronous telemedicine, allows providers to share patient data and information, such as lab results, with a physician at another location. Interactive telemedicine allows physicians and patients to communicate in real time. It can be conducted in a patient's home or a nearby medical facility and include telephone conversations or the use of video conferencing software that meets the terms of HIPAA regulations.
While telemedicine has become a breakthrough for physicians in the medical world, it has created numerous potential risks that put patients in danger of medical mistakes. In some cases, patients have been seriously injured or even killed because of medical mistakes committed from far away.
Potential risks include:
- Medical Malpractice
- Medication errors
- Accuracy problems – the failure of telemedicine sites to confirm basic patient information, such as the identity of patients
- Failure to identify clinician credentials
- Failure to obtain patient health history
Recently, Kline & Specter, PC, secured a $4.2 million settlement in the case of a woman who died from routine neck surgery as a doctor who was supposed to have been “neuromonitoring” the procedure was out driving his car and making phone calls. The doctor claimed he had been monitoring the surgery but that problems with his internet caused his screen to freeze. A multi-year, in-depth investigation by plaintiff’s attorney Michael A. Trunk and doctor/attorney Gary Zakeosian, showed that the doctor had been driving his car when the surgery started. They produced evidence from cell phone tower records that showed the doctor had made or received seven phone calls during the surgery, despite his testimony that he had not been on the phone during the operation. The settlement was reached as the Superior Court in Atlantic County was set to hear argument on plaintiff’s motion to add claims for punitive damages against the doctor, a neuromonitoring technician and their employers.
If you or a family member have suffered injury as a result of medical malpractice involving telemedicine, you may have grounds for a lawsuit. Kline and Specter, with more than 40 attorneys, five of them also highly skilled medical doctors, handles cases of medical malpractice in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, New York and nationwide.