Malpractice is something no healthcare provider likes to say out loud or even think about which is why we are covering reducing liability with telehealth. But, the truth is, it is a reality of working in the medical field and we must be prepared for any malpractice claims, allegations or lawsuits. With the growing popularity of telehealth, some healthcare providers are unsure how malpractice and liability issues are handled when healthcare goes digital. In this article, we will lay out some fundamentals on reducing liability with telehealth.
Telehealth means low liability
You might surprised to find this out, but there is actually less liability associated with telehealth. This is because telehealth physicians are more likely to deal with routine checkups rather than high-risk procedures and life-threatening operations. Some good news if you are a telehealth provider looking for malpractice insurance.
There are limited past claims history
Here’s something else you may be surprised to learn: telehealth actually stretches back a couple decades, think to the days of pagers. While these doctors weren’t conducting visits over video chat, they were consulting patients over the phone, which is one form of telemedicine. But still, little is known or reported about malpractice claims made against telehealth providers over those years.
Document, document, document
When looking for ways to protect yourself from malpractice claims and reducing liability with telehealth, documentation is your go-to. Thanks to recent advancements in telehealth technology, secure video chat platforms are replacing the old method of telemedicine which was done via a phone call. This means more documentation tools are available and are easier to access for the provider. The more you document your conversations, your chances of reducing liability with telehealth is higher.
Get the right malpractice coverage
Malpractice insurance varies by company, speciality and state. We are seeing more malpractice policies include telehealth these days, but others are slower to add the services to their coverage. If you are considering adding telehealth services, make sure to check with your insurance company and find a policy that will protect you.
Reducing liability with telehealth
Telehealth has the possibility of exposing healthcare providers who aren’t that tech-savvy to greater liability issues if a patient misunderstands a physician’s orders due to bad connection or some type of communication issue. To support reducing liability with telehealth, some insurers are introducing standalone telehealth technology errors and omissions coverage.
Telemedicine liability during COVID-19
During the global pandemic of COVID-19, providers are seeing a surge in telemedicine calls. This is because many in-person routine visits were limited in order to limit exposure to COVID-19 and many patients are feeling uneasy about traveling to hospitals and doctor’s offices and exposing themselves to the pandemic. 18 states and the District of Columbia enacted emergency regulations to increase the use of telehealth during the coronavirus pandemic, these regulations allow healthcare providers to consult patients over the phone and by video chat. Since some of these communications are not completely secure, the federal government also relaxed some HIPAA rules in order to facilitate telehealth services during the global health emergency. This means that during COVID-19, providers may conduct visits with patients over FaceTime or Skype without receiving a penalty for a HIPAA violation. But, there are a number of HIPAA-compliant telehealth platforms and it’s important that healthcare providers use those in order to avoid HIPAA violations once COVID-19 is over. If you are a healthcare provider using Skype or FaceTime to conduct a telehealth visit with a patient during COVID-19, make sure that you are in a quiet area, away from other people who may hear your conversation. Make sure your patients are doing the same thing.
As telehealth continues to be used more, healthcare providers need to make sure they are licensed to practice medicine in states other than their own. 49 states plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands require physicians practicing telehealth are licensed in the state that the patient is located. There are about 12 state medical boards that issue special purpose licenses in order to help facilitate the practice of telemedicine, but it’s imperative that physicians obtain the license before they offer their services in order to make sure they are covered by liability insurance.
If you would like more information about the benefits of telehealth, we would love to have you sign up for our fundamentals course by clicking here. The course goes over everything you need to know about telehealth, from the history, to the benefits to the licensing and credentialing. We also offer an additional course in compliance. Feel free to reach out to us with any questions you may have.
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