The Rewards and Risks of Telehealth Programs

While New York is already well into the process of phasing out its quarantine, the coronavirus remains a significant threat to public health, especially those with long-term health issues. To address these concerns, doctors have placed an increased emphasis on telehealth programs to allow them to speak with patients without needing to see them in person. However, with this increased emphasis on telehealth technology comes increased risks that both doctors and patients should be aware of.

Telehealth refers to the use of teleconferencing software, such as Zoom, Skype, or Google Meet, that allows doctors to speak with patients remotely. Telehealth programs were originally used to assist people with mobility issues or other health complications that make meeting with a doctor in-person difficult.  However, these programs have seen increased popularity during the coronavirus pandemic, allowing doctors to “meet” with patients without risking infection through physical interaction.

Telehealth programs do not come without risks, however. First, without meeting in person, doctors cannot conduct their own physical examination of a patient, relying instead on self-reporting or the reports of a third-party. This could result in potential liability if a patient’s illness goes undiagnosed, or is misdiagnosed, without an in-person examination. Second, difficulties in remote communication increase the likelihood of lost or misinterpreted information, which may cause harm to patients who cannot clearly understand a doctor’s instructions.

However, there are additional potential issues that may arise due to the platforms used for telehealth. Several major platforms have been criticized for failing to adequately protect user data, for example, potentially exposing them to breaches of sensitive personal information and resulting in possible HIPAA violations. The terms of use for these platforms may also permit other kinds of data collection, putting patient privacy at risk. With the Department of Health and Human Services choosing to relax HIPAA enforcement against telehealth providers during the coronavirus crisis, however, patients may not be able to rely on government action to protect them from malicious breaches of their personal information.

If you or someone you know has suffered harm due to treatment over a telehealth program, you may be entitled to compensation. Seeking the advice from an attorney experienced in medical malpractice will help assure you get the compensation you deserve. The lawyers at Levine and Slavit, PLLC assist clients in collecting the damages they need to cope with the effects of medical malpractice. For more information or to schedule a consultation with our New York medical malpractice lawyers, call (888) LAW-8088 or fill out our contact form.

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