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How telehealth visits increase the risks of misdiagnosis

On Behalf of | Feb 1, 2022 | Medical Malpractice |

Medical professionals in Georgia and around the country have grown increasingly reliant on telehealth visits to manage everything from a routine checkup to prescribing medication or even making a diagnosis. Unfortunately, doctors sometimes rely on different data in a virtual session than they would for an in-person visit.

If a patient experiences harm due to a misdiagnosis, negligent omission, miscommunication between healthcare provider and patient, or even a software malfunction, it can lead to a malpractice lawsuit. Misdiagnosis has been a common error for medical professionals using telehealth visits to make a diagnosis. From 2014 to 2018, nearly two thirds of all malpractice claims related to telemedicine concerned a misdiagnosis.

The relaxing of HIPAA regulations, including flexibilities and waivers, remains in effect for the time being, which may have negative implications for privacy protection. There is more flexibility with doctor-patient communication through a range of video-conferencing platforms, which could lead to a risk of breaches to a patient’s protected health information. Ransomware and phishing schemes have shot up in recent years, exposing the healthcare industry to cyber-liability.

The harm that a misdiagnosis causes

A healthcare provider owes a duty of care to their patients that is at a standard recognized by peer medical professionals in the field. This standard applies to medical treatment and diagnosis and is expected whether or not the care is given in person or virtually.

The medical professional is responsible for any diagnosis, treatment, or prescription they provide to the patient, regardless of the omission of vital information the patient shares, if there is missing data in their history, or if there was a miscommunication.

A breach of this duty of care will expose the medical professional to liability, especially if it results in disability, death, lost wages, pain and suffering, and possible future treatment to correct the error. If the claim is successful, the healthcare provider could lose their license, and could even face fines or imprisonment.

Filing a claim in Georgia

For a medical malpractice claim to be successful, in Georgia there are several important elements that must be present, sometimes called “the four D’s”:

  • Duty of care, which includes advising the patient of risks associated with treatment, ensuring their privacy, keeping them fully informed and maintaining a high standard of care.
  • Deviation from that standard of care, which can include misdiagnosis, misinterpreting test results, or prescribing improper medications or dosages.
  • Direct causation, meaning that the medical professional’s decision about treatment deviated from that standard of care was the direct cause of the patient’s harm.
  • Damages, which were the result of the healthcare provider’s action or inaction, which may include hospital bills and treatments to correct the damage, lost wages or earning capacity, or physical pain.

Proving medical malpractice can be challenging, so it is essential to have strategic advocacy when it comes to filing a claim in a timely manner. The statute of limitations for a malpractice claim in Georgia is two years.