The Standard of Care and Misjudgments on Telemedicine

 

You may think health is only about maintaining diets, right organ conditions, exercising, drinking medicine and recovering when you’re sick, developing holistic wellness, and such. However, there’s more to it than just that. In taking care of our health, there are multiple layers to it, such as the financial aspects and the legal matters that come with it. You’ll need money when it comes to buying medical interventions to keep your health in shape.

More so, specific laws concern your health. These laws contain your rights, responsibilities, and the duties of healthcare professionals unto you. You must be familiar with some of the concepts on the legal aspects regarding one’s health.

 

What is the Standard of Care?

When we hear the term ‘standard of care’, most of us would immediately think that these are set standards on how healthcare professionals are providing their services. This is correct. However, there is a more specific use and meaning of this term.

The ‘standard of care’ is a legal term that pertains to the degree of skill and care that healthcare professionals should provide. Examples of this consist of the diagnosis, a recommendation for treatment, the treatment itself, chemotherapy, surgery, etc. Moreover, this also encompasses the level of care and attentiveness that a professional is obligated to his/her client. These professionals can be paramedics, doctors, lawyers, and anyone in a professional role that offers clients services. However, this is mostly applied to doctors or healthcare professionals, and lawyers.

One of the essential knowledge we must understand in the standard of care is that it is based on the logic that a person should always act in a way that a different reasonable person would work, given that both of you have the same knowledge and skills for the profession. An exception to this rule is when the person believes he/she, in good faith, gave proper advice and was acting in the client’s best interest.

Medical Standard of Care

The medical standard of care follows the same logic above. A doctor, who has the same required skills and knowledge as any other doctor, is bound by duty to provide the best possible care and treatment one can offer and as expected from a competent doctor.

Violation of the Standard of Care

In general, medical malpractice refers to a violation of the standard of care, such as when a doctor could not administer their services adequately and reasonably. It can be an error in the treatment or a misjudgment in the recommendation or diagnosis of a patient. In a word, medical malpractice is negligence.

When unfortunate situations arise from a doctor’s negligence, they are often sued for medical malpractice. Here are some of the most common cases of negligence on the standard of care, which led to medical malpractice cases being filed against doctors:

  • Delayed diagnosis of a disease or condition which leads to subjecting a patient to enduring further sufferings (This also leads to delayed treatment, which can pose a hazard to the patient’s life)
  • Misdiagnosis
  • Errors in surgery, anesthesia, or medication
  • Injuries that mothers, fetuses, and babies incur during childbirth

This negligence can happen in the doctor’s office, the operating room, and more. When doctors commit any of these and some that were not mentioned, the patient’s family can sue the doctor for an injury or wrongful death.

Should Telemedicine Be Held to the Standard of Care

One of the ways physicians can provide health-related services is through telemedicine. There are growing concerns on whether telemedicine should be subject to the Standard of Care.

Telemedicine is a form of medical practice where health-related services are delivered through electronic and telecommunication technologies. Consultation with telemedical doctors is the most popular service available through this practice. Doctors and patients exchange real-time information through calls and send images or readings that the doctors can interpret and base their diagnosis on.

However, insurance companies are now the ones who provide the most telemedicine services. These companies usually have policies that limit a consultation between a telemedical doctor and a patient. In some cases, physicians can only take up to 2 minutes. If it goes beyond this, they will not be compensated for the consultation.

More so, without being able to freely talk with the patient and learn all the details of their experience, check the client’s blood pressure, breathing, heart rate, and other crucial data themselves, they are left to rely on what information the client will be providing. With this, the question arises, “can we subject telemedical doctors to the same standard of care that in-office physicians must be held upon?”

The knowledge telemedicine doctors have on the patient is limited since the consultation and ways of knowing more about the client’s condition is lacking. The standard of care clearly states that a doctor must have the same knowledge and skills a reasonable and competent doctor has in performing services. In this case, do they have similar setups? Would it be fair for telemedicine doctors to be held to the same standard? This issue must be one of the most crucial considerations in telemedicine medical malpractice defense.

Misjudgments and Factors Affecting Telemedicine

As we can observe, telemedicine doctors are more likely to get sued by families of patients. Not only is this because they deem that the error in judgment was solely the physician’s fault and not because of the lack of information and the restrictive conditions, but also because of these factors:

Personal Connection

Attorneys with years of experience handling medical malpractice cases, be it with telemedicine doctors or not, cannot deny the fact that personal connection can play a role in whether or not people will sue a doctor or not. Some doctors have been go-to doctors for different families. When they make errors in judgment, they are not likely to be sued because of the relationship the family has with the doctor. However, this is not so for telemedicine doctors who will not be able to build relationships with patients since they will only be talking to clients most probably only once in their lifetime of service and for a short time.

Continuity

Because of the lack of continuity in telemedicine, one of the reasons why telemedicine doctors are also misled to make misjudgments is the lack of knowledge on the client’s medical history. With continuity, doctors will be able to take note of the client’s prior medical condition and properly recommend treatment based on it. However, continuity is not something you can achieve in telemedicine.

 

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