Medical Malpractice and Liability
What is medical malpractice?
Medical malpractice is a deviation from the accepted standards of practice in the medical community and causes injury or death to a patient for whom the physician has a duty of care. Medical liability is generally governed by State law. Standards and regulations for medical malpractice vary by State. Medical professionals are required to maintain professional liability insurance to offset the risk and costs of lawsuits based on medical malpractice.
What are the medical malpractice issues when practicing telemedicine?
For telemedicine “face-to-face” encounters involving direct care of patients, most medical malpractice insurance covers only “face to face” encounters within the State in which the doctor practices and is licensed. Consequently, doctors who provide telemedicine services to patients outside of the State in which they are licensed can be exposed to uninsured claims if State law requires the physician to be licensed in the State where the test results are delivered. Some carriers assert that they are only required to cover claims against providers when the provider is performing medical services in the state where the carrier agreed to cover the provider. Some states protect providers of telemedicine services by forcing insurers to cover claims against the providers even if the claim arises from an out-of-state patient. Other states either exempt the insurer from providing the coverage or fail to address the issue at all. Obligations of malpractice insurance carriers must be examined on a state-by-state basis. Insurance underwriters are also offering separate policies for clinicians who provide interpretive telemedicine services, such as teleradiology (44).
How do I ensure that I am covered when performing telemedicine services?
Physicians performing telemedicine services should ensure that their malpractice liability insurance policy covers such telemedicine-related mishaps. Prior to providing telemedicine services, physicians should obtain written assurances from their insurer that medical malpractice liability insurance policies cover telemedicine malpractice. Additionally, if the physician will be providing services across state lines, they must ensure that their malpractice liability extends coverage to multiple states (45).