Author: Mary Stoll Cahill, BSN, RN
Telemedicine's use continues to grow as a beneficial method for delivering healthcare. According to a 2021 nationwide survey, physicians and patients report high levels of satisfaction with telemedicine.1 After all, what's better than having your physician just a click away, when you consider the benefits: convenience, less risk of virus transmission, the patient's ability to self-monitor, along with savings of time and money?
But telemedicine has its drawbacks: A 2021 study of patient and physician opinions on telemedicine revealed important concerns. Top issues were lack of confidence in the physician-patient relationship and assessment accuracy. Reports of dissimilar treatment for those with hearing and speech difficulties, language barriers or mental health or socioeconomic disadvantages were also of concern.2
Clearly, there are situations when an in-person physician visit is best, and making that determination is key to mitigating risk. This article highlights liability exposures and the importance of proper insurance coverage for the risks.
Medical Professional Liability (MPL) protection
It's uncertain what types of claims will come from the practice of telemedicine, and we may not know for years to come.3 One of the allegations that could surface is failure to diagnose. This possibility should be a signal for physicians to implement strategies to mitigate this risk and also to review their medical professional liability coverage.
Review your policy and ask these questions before practicing telemedicine, to avoid gaps in medical professional liability (MPL) coverage:
- Does my current coverage include care and treatment provided, using the practice of telemedicine?
- What additional insurance coverage may I need for my specific situation?
- If I have MPL coverage for telemedicine, what are my coverage limitations?
- Will there be a premium increase for a virtual-only practice?
Medical licensing across states
Aside from MPL coverage for breaches of the standard of care, there's also the important risk issue of licensure. Some state laws require a physician to be licensed in the state where the patient resides, so it's critical that you know your state laws and regulations for licensure. You and your agent should carefully check your policy to see if exclusions exist for treatment by a clinician who is not properly licensed.
The hope is that telemedicine will continue to complement rather than replace in-person examinations. As a necessary modality to supplement healthcare, virtual healthcare is a lifesaver as long we realize its limits.
Gallagher is here to assist you with your Medical Professional Liability coverage. Contact us for more information.
For additional information on telemedicine, visit the Gallagher Digital Health & Telemedicine Resources page.