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Medical Malpractice

Telemedicine and Medical Malpractice

March 29, 2024

COVID-19 moved much of our lives online. Services that were traditionally provided in person were made available over the telephone or via Zoom and other video conferencing platforms. The healthcare industry is no exception. While telemedicine existed prior to COVID-19, the pandemic greatly increased the amount of healthcare services available to patients without going into the office. That said, these services raise complex questions about potential liability that are not yet fully understood. If you believe you are a victim of medical malpractice caused by telemedicine, you should discuss your case with a knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney

How Does the Standard of Care Apply? 

The core issue in any medical malpractice case is determining whether the healthcare provider failed to meet the standard of care. The standard of care is determined by what a healthcare professional with the same education, training, and experience would do with the same case in the same situation. The circumstances surrounding where and when treatment was provided are important. For example, emergency room physicians may not be held to the same standard of care as other doctors because they have to make decisions based on limited information in life-or-death situations. 

There are questions as to what standard of care should apply when doctors and other healthcare professionals are providing diagnoses and recommending treatment via telemedicine. Should it be measured by what another provider would have done in a telemedicine appointment or in an in-office appointment? There is currently no clear answer to that question, but a better question may be whether it was appropriate for the patient to be “seen” via a telemedicine appointment. The answer may also depend on whether the patient was advised to come into the office for an in-person appointment and was offered an appointment. 

Informed Consent Issues

Another potential issue with telemedicine appointments is whether medical providers can provide sufficient information in order to obtain the patient’s informed consent. Informed consent is a critical step in the treatment process – the physician explains the potential risks, side effects, and available alternatives to the recommended treatment. If they fail to obtain the patient’s informed consent, it could be considered medical malpractice if the patient later suffers some harm. 

With in-person visits, patients typically sit down with their doctor, who explains everything they need to know about their illness and the treatment they are recommending. The patient then signs a document that signifies their informed consent. While the explanation is possible via telemedicine, getting a signature can be more complicated. Furthermore, it is easier for patients to become distracted on telemedicine visits, and therefore, they may not fully understand what is being said. Technical difficulties can also make this difficult. 


Of course, doctors cannot provide actual medical treatment over the phone or video calls. The main concern with telemedicine is whether the provider will be able to make an appropriate diagnosis. The doctor will not be able to check your vital signs over the phone or online. They cannot directly observe your complexion or other symptoms that may not be apparent on a video call. The inability to see you in person could mean that they cannot make a proper diagnosis. In turn, this could result in them prescribing the wrong medication or recommending an inappropriate treatment. Telemedicine can be a great option for minor illnesses, but it is not a substitute for in-patient care. 

You may have a medical malpractice claim if you were misdiagnosed in any situation. However, your claim may be even stronger if you were misdiagnosed in a telemedicine appointment and were not advised to come into the office for a follow-up appointment as soon as possible. Whatever the situation may be, you should contact a medical malpractice attorney to discuss your rights and your options. 

Contact Ragain & Clark to Discuss Your Malpractice Claim Today

We rely on our doctors and other medical professionals to guide us through our healthcare options. While telemedicine is an incredibly convenient option, it is inappropriate for serious illnesses or where the patient’s health is at stake. It should supplement in-person care, not replace it. 

Telemedicine cases present complex factual and legal issues. At Ragain & Clark, we have over 30 years of experience handling complex medical malpractice claims. We know what it takes to get the compensation our clients need to regain their lives. To discuss your case and how we can help, contact us today at 406-651-8888 (Billings) or 307-388-6400 (Worland).


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