Tele-Medicine and Medical Negligence -Navigating New Legal Challenges
The introduction of telemedicine is claimed to have revolutionised the healthcare landscape.
During COVID-19 and throughout lockdown, patients were unable to attend face-to-face appointments with their GP. Instead, telephone triage appointments were set up, and what we now know as tele-medicine introduced.
Whilst this is beneficial, it also presents many challenges.
1. Doctor Patient Relationship
The introduction of tele-medicine alters the dynamic of the traditional doctor-patient consultation as it proceeds without direct face-to-face contact. This is a fundamental change which poses challenges for the clinician and the patient. Determining whether the clinician has met the required standard of care can become difficult when assessing the recorded content of remote tele-medicine consultations with patients.
2. Diagnostic Accuracy
Whilst tele-medicine allows for remote consultations with patients, it can create issues for both the doctor and patient in terms of the accuracy of the assessment. Factors which play a part in the accuracy of assessing a patient can include video quality during remote consultations, connectivity or internet issues, and the inability to physically examine a patient. When tele-medicine claims arise, it is important for the legal professionals to carefully analyse whether the clinician’s actions based on the available information met the standard of care which they owe to their patients.
3. Informed Consent
Informed consent is a key aspect in medical treatment. However, with tele-medicine, it can be difficult to ascertain whether the patient fully understands the risks, benefits and limitations involved. It is also challenging for the treating clinician to obtain informed consent as there is no face-to-face interaction. It is important for clinicians to implement and follow procedures for obtaining informed consent and equally as important that this information is recorded accurately.
4. Cybersecurity and Data Protection
Tele-medicine enables patients to access medical treatment from anywhere however this provision of services across the jurisdiction poses challenges in terms of data protection and cybersecurity. It is crucial that adequate safeguards are implemented in order to protect patients’ data and information from any breaches. Failure to do so may lead to potential negligence claims and expose healthcare providers to data protection claims.
Maintaining accurate and comprehensive notes from a tele-medicine consultation is key. Clinicians and associated healthcare professionals must carefully record patent history, symptoms, diagnoses, treatment plans and prescriptions; along with any other information they deem relevant. This process is not only a due diligence exercise, but also may serve as evidence should a medical negligence claim arise.
In conclusion, tele-medicine can when properly utilised create advantages to the healthcare professionals and convenience for the patients. However, tele-medicine creates many challenges. It is important that treating clinicians, and associated healthcare professionals work together in order to mitigate the risks associated with tele-medicine and ensure patient safety in prioritised.
If you think you have been adversely affected by a tele-medicine appointment or incorrectly prescribed, please get in touch with our Medical Negligence team here at P.A. Duffy Solicitors who would be happy to discuss your concerns further.