In July, we explored the pros and cons of telemedicine, also referred to as telehealth. That blog post explained the basics of telemedicine. It talked about how doctors may run a virtual visit with patients either over the phone or by a video conferencing call. Use of telemedicine has increased greatly during the pandemic. This has led many to wonder about its usefulness and its safety.

Can telemedicine increase the risk of malpractice?

Telemedicine has obvious limits. The biggest fear is that the doctor will miss something important by not seeing the patient in-person. Doctors rely on a number of tools to make a proper diagnosis. Such tools include:

  • Vital signs – Vital signs such as blood pressure, temperature and heart rate can tell a doctor much about your overall health. Although you can probably take your own temperature, other vitals are more difficult. For example, the doctor cannot easily listen to your lungs or heart.
  • Lab work and x-rays – Doctors will often request lab work or x-rays to help them diagnose certain conditions. For the most part, these must be done in person.
  • Hands-on screening – Doctors often rely on observation to diagnose a patient. They may check if a spot is tender, hard or soft. They can only see so much on a virtual call and may miss discoloration or redness.
  • Preventive medicine – Keeping up on annual physicals and regular tests, such as mammograms and colonoscopies, can catch problems early.

Tips for your virtual visit

You can help make your telehealth visit more successful by being prepared. Make sure you know how to access the visit on your phone or computer. Pick a spot where the doctor can hear and see you easily. Here are a few more tips:

  • Be thorough – Don’t leave out any details about your symptoms and your overall health. Have a list of all your medications and over-the-counter supplements handy so you do not forget any of them.
  • Ask questions – When it comes to your health, there are no bad questions. Don’t worry about taking up the doctor’s time. If you don’t understand something, ask them to explain further.
  • Know how to follow up – What are your next steps? If your symptoms don’t improve or worsen, request another visit.

What if a diagnosis is missed?

Although doctors may be able to diagnose minor medical issues over a virtual visit, more serious matters could go undetected. A missed diagnoses or medication error can happen when doctors do not have all the tools at their disposal that they normally rely on. If this happened to you, you could have a medical malpractice claim against your provider. To discuss your specific situation with an experienced attorney, contact Martin Law LLC.