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The widespread use of telehealth visits over the past year to pinpoint a diagnosis, prescribe medications or recommend certain procedures has created a climate of fresh scrutiny for healthcare workers who are relying on different data than they would for in-person visits.

This practice opens them up to malpractice suits if a patient is harmed as a result of a misdiagnosis, negligent omission, miscommunication or software malfunction. Even before the events of 2020, misdiagnosis was a common error for practitioners using telemedicine to make a diagnosis. From 2014 to 2018, 66% of malpractice claims related to telemedicine concerned a misdiagnosis.

Relaxing HIPPA regulations

In addition, the Department of Health and Human Services has temporarily relaxed HIPPA privacy protocols in order to provide more flexibility in doctor-patient communications that are conducted using a variety of video-conferencing platforms.

The implications for this are concerning, as this can mean that there is a risk of breaches to a patient’s protected health information. Ransomware and phishing scams have also increased by 350% since last spring, exposing the healthcare industry to possible cyber-liability.

The harm done by a misdiagnosis

Medical professionals owe to their patients a duty of a standard of care recognized by peer medical professionals across the field. This applies both to medical treatment as well as diagnosis, and it is required regardless of whether the care is given in person or virtually.

Even where there are gaps in the information provided by the patient, missing data in their medical history or if there has been a miscommunication, the healthcare provider is responsible for any diagnosis, treatment or prescription provided to the patient.

A breach in this duty may result in harm in the form of disability, death, future medical treatment to correct the error, lost wages and pain and suffering. In a successful malpractice suit, the healthcare provider can have his license revoked or suspended, and he also may face fines or even imprisonment.

Medical malpractice in Texas

In Texas, there are economic and noneconomic damages that are awarded in healthcare liability cases. There is no limit on the recovery of economic damages, but there are caps on noneconomic damages. There are rules regarding the statutes of limitations, and expert testimony from a licensed professional is essential in proving a breach of the standard of care. An injured patient can pursue malpractice claims against more than one medical provider.

Proving medical malpractice can be challenging and complicated. Consultation with an experienced medical malpractice attorney in the Austin metro area can help the injured party understand their options before beginning the process.