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Is telemedicine a convenience or a medical malpractice concern?

With the advent of modern technology and the Internet, practically every type of business and profession has found some way to utilize the technology to make their products or services more convenient for their customers and clients to access. These advances have two obvious goals: (1) to allow the business or service an opportunity for increase revenue through technology and (2) to make life more convenient for consumers.

Given the rapid growth of technology for these purposes, it is clear that both sides are benefiting. But are there certain services that should be banned from using the Internet and other technological services to offer consultations without having personal face-to-face contact with the consumer?

Telemedicine is at the center of controversy in Louisiana and other states, and even with the governing body of physicians. Because of passionate arguments on both sides of the issue, the American Medical Association recently tabled proposed guidelines for conducting telemedicine consultations. The Federation of State Medical Boards, however, established the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact in 2013. As of June 2015, nine states are currently members of the group. Louisiana is not one of them.

Louisiana has its own law governing telemedicine. Louisiana Revised Statutes 37:1262 defines what constitutes “telemedicine” under Louisiana law. In a general sense, the definition includes doctor-patient consultations that are not conducted face-to-face, rather using “interactive telecommunication technology” via “two-way video and audio transmissions simultaneously”. The laws also expressly exclude “a telephone conversation [or] an electronic mail message” as meeting the definition of the lawful practice of telemedicine.

Even without the overall concern of whether a misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose via telemedicine could be grounds for medical malpractice, other issues immediately come to mind.

The doctor-patient relationship has traditionally been protected by ethical considerations. For example, a doctor cannot provide confidential information to a third party without permission from the patient. And even beyond individual information requests is the privacy concern surrounding the ability to hack or access patient information without express permission.

If your doctor suggests a consultation via telemedicine, consider all the potential issues that could arise. And if a consultation via telemedicine has resulted in negative consequences for you or a loved one, consider contacting a Louisiana attorney who can help determine whether a medical malpractice lawsuit should be filed.

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