With the rapid change and increase of use of technology by health care professionals, visits to your doctor’s office are starting to change. Changes such as electronic records, digital prescriptions, making your appointments online, or signing on an iPad instead of on a clipboard are already being implemented. Even conducting office visits using personal communication devices like Skype, FaceTime, email, or text.
Experts believe that more radical applications of telemedicine will not be widely used for 10 years or more. There is a trend that telemedicine is used more widely in states and regions that are very rural since finding a medical specialist can be difficult and usually involves a long waits for appointments.
The greater use of technology has also allowed patients to be more involved in their care. Doctors now have the tools to tell the patients how they are doing. This is especially useful for seniors who like to be updated on their health.
There are some pilot programs that health systems can join that encourage the greater use of technology. Doctors can take vital signs from remote locations and have real-time conversations with patients over long distances. This could allow for faster more accurate diagnosis, leading to more rapid treatment. The easy accessibility of health care information will also aid physicians in detecting health care patterns.
The use of electronic medical record keeping has increased significantly. According to a survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2012, 72 percent of office-based physicians kept medical records electronically. This was up from 48 percent in 2009. Electronic record-keeping and prescriptions will be almost universal within the next few years, possibly being a federal requirement.
Given that telemedicine crosses state lines and that medical licenses are still a state matter, there is a question of how malpractice will be handled. With the increase use of telemedicine, the malpractice claims related to telemedicine will likely increase as well. It has been suggested that this will create a new body of law. Changes in how malpractice insurance policies are written and priced will also likely change.
The issues associated telemedicine and medical malpractice lawsuits include which state will have jurisdiction, what is the standard of care when it comes to appointments that are not face-to-face, or what will be the standard for informed consent. Additionally, if the case goes bad, is the responsibility with the physician or will it be considered failure of technology.
Regardless of the potential problems legally, there does not seem to be a question of whether telemedicine will help patients. The increased use of technology helps to mitigate human error. People will be able to see their doctor either in person or electronically, and as long as it is not used excessively, virtual health care will continue to help patients.
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