Do Virtual Patient Visits Increase Your Risk of Being Sued?

Neil Chesanow


October 22, 2014

In This Article

Risky or Not, Virtual Visits Will Grow

It isn't clear to experts at this point whether virtual patient visits will increase physicians' liability risk or lower it. If malpractice insurers had serious concerns, however, they would be reticent to cover it. Yet the opposite appears to be true.

"I don't think we can say that telemedicine will necessarily generate higher losses, because that would be defined by the standard of care," Francis says. "We as insurers certainly don't set the standard of care. But we do try to provide the product that physicians need to engage in the normal practice of medicine, and telemedicine is becoming part of the normal practice of medicine. It is becoming such an integral part of providing healthcare across the country that we don't have any interest in excluding coverage for that, and I think that most carriers will come to the same conclusion."

"That's not to say there won't be liability issues encountered," Francis continues. "With any new technology or any change in the way healthcare is delivered, you open up the possibility of additional avenues of liability. But our hope is that the care delivered overall will be better, and that better chronic disease management will improve outcomes. Any time you improve outcomes, you lessen liability claims, even though you might have a few extra liability claims because things do break and technology does malfunction."

"The industry is growing so rapidly that I think we'll be hard-pressed to find any physician not providing some sort of telemedicine within the next 2 to 3 years," predicts MDLIVE's Justin Stone. His network, and American Well's, build in malpractice coverage for their member physicians: $1 million per incident and $3 million in aggregate. "This is something that is coming, that is needed, given the stresses on the healthcare system in the United States," Stone is convinced. "We need to take advantage of good technology to help alleviate those stresses."

The prospect of new vulnerabilities to liability suits doesn't seem to be deterring many doctors from wanting to practice telemedicine. Both MDLIVE and American Well have growing waiting lists of physicians who seek to join. "We have doctors who are calling us all the time," says Stone. "Everyone wants to get on the train."


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