While physicians have used telemedicine services for years, COVID-19 and the need for social distancing propelled the model to the forefront of health. In the United States, the telemedicine market will grow 18.5% between 2019 and 2025, according to Global Market Insights Inc. But with rising coverage costs in many healthcare areas, the question of how telehealth will impact coverage remains.
What is Telehealth
Telehealth is a form of long-distance medical treatment that leverages computer, mobile, and telecommunications technology so doctors can care for patients without an in-person appointment. It uses platforms like Zoom, Skype, and medicine-specific proprietary services.
Due to the remote nature of telehealth services, the form of care is protected from expensive litigation from high-risk in-person procedures. Surgeries, baby deliveries, and other risky procedures are not an option over telehealth and, as a result, face a lower risk of malpractice claims.
Robust documentation also safeguards telehealth against claims. For example, secure video chat platforms document and ensure that conversations stay between patients and providers. Secure platforms reduce vulnerabilities and minimize potential liability in the case of a lawsuit.
Areas with potential risk
Telehealth is still a very recent treatment model, and policies from medical malpractice insurance companies vary widely. Some insurers offer a policy on telehealth while others will not.
Unfortunately, telemedicine also faces risks of medical errors. While it does not face the same risk of medical errors as in-person fields, telehealth appointments can result in misdiagnoses and prescription errors. According to Insurance Business Magazine, experts anticipate malpractice claims around telehealth to increase proportionately with the industry's growth since COVID-19.
Future of Telehealth
The future of telehealth insurance hinges on coding claims. The technology is relatively new, and more cases will help insurers improve their telemedicine claim codification. According to an Aon Global Risk Consulting and The Doctors Company, standardizing coding from claims will give providers the information they need to have their practice covered.
“Our hypothesis is that by capturing future telemedicine claims using a common nomenclature, the underlying data points will provide the necessary information to propel effective risk management strategies that mitigate future HPL and PPL costs.”
For more information about medical malpractice costs, here are the Medical Providers Impacted Most by High Liability Insurance Claims.