Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Telemedicine, or Telehealth as it is also known, has become a growing trend in healthcare. Telehealth was a reliable form of providing care prior to the pandemic, but it was normally a very small part of a provider’s practice. But as physicians and patients became more comfortable with Telemedicine, it has expanded to more practices and a higher percentage of most practices’ care. There are different risks involved in seeing patients remotely than in-person, and that means your medical malpractice insurance needs to be updated to include Telemedicine.
Get the most out of your Telemedicine malpractice insurance coverage by including the information at your next renewal, or when you purchase coverage for the first time. Medical malpractice insurance companies used to be squeamish about covering Telemedicine, but now, if it’s a relatively small part of a practice, they are fine with it and expect it to be part of a normal medical practice. Physicians who do 100% Telemedicine may have a difficult time finding medical malpractice insurance, but there are companies willing to cover the exposure. If your practice is 100% Telemedicine, contact eQuoteMD for the right coverage at the right price.
Getting medical malpractice insurance for Telemedicine isn’t a problem, but there are guidelines the insurance carrier will want you to follow. First, you must be licensed in the state you are working and in the state where the patient is located. Ideally, the patients you see would be part of your regular patient load and be in the same city and state that you’re in, but that isn’t always possible. For example, if you are located near a state line, and you see patients that come to your office from the bordering state, when you have a remote appointment, the patient is probably at home in the other state. This would mean you must have a medical license in both states. Or if you decide you want to work remotely and see patients that are part of your practice while you are in another state, you will need a license in both states. If you find yourself in either of these situations, let your malpractice insurance company know right away.
During the pandemic the rules were changed, and Telemedicine and Telehealth were automatically covered under most malpractice insurance policies. For obvious reasons this allowance was necessary. In the years since, as things have gone back to normal, most policies will cover Telemedicine if the company is notified, and they know where and how much it is occurring.
As a percentage of a medical practice, Telemedicine is covered within reason. Calculate the percentage of your practice that includes Telemedicine either by number of patients seen or by amount of revenue from Telemedicine compared to the rest of your practice. Then make sure to notify your insurance company.
Medical malpractice insurance companies offer some suggestions to help you reduce the risk of a claim when practicing Telemedicine. For one, get increased coverage for cyber liability insurance. You usually have $50,000 to $100,000 included in your malpractice insurance policy, but that is not enough. Get a separate policy or purchase an increased liability limit of at least $1,000,000. Cyber crime is on the rise, and you need to be protected fully.
Next, malpractice insurance companies suggest that you only do virtual visits with established patients. There is more risk in virtual visits no matter the circumstance, but especially with a new patient you have never seen in person, and when you have no relationship with the person.
Another suggestion is to talk to your patients about Telehealth and virtual visits before actually scheduling one. Be sure the patient has the appropriate computer, phone, or tablet to make the appointment work smoothly. Explain how the appointment will work, how long to expect to be on the video or call, and set the expectations ahead of time. Let them know that if there are technology problems, it will be better to follow up in person as soon as possible.
An additional risk mitigation practice is to consider the physical space in which you will be conducting the call or video. Is it private? Can anyone hear your discussion with the patient? Will there be interruptions or distractions? Patient privacy should be one of your main concerns, but don’t forget about what the patient will see in your environment. Is there anything in the background that should be changed? Is there anything on the wall that will be distracting? Is there background noise that would make it difficult for the patient to hear you? Choose a quiet space with very little on the wall behind you with good front lighting. A window behind you will make it hard for the patient to see you. Your surroundings make a big difference in the quality of the virtual visit.
Besides your surroundings, preparing the patient ahead of time, keeping Telemedicine to established patients only, and increasing your cyber liability coverage, you should also consider another important risk-reducing practice when engaging in Telemedicine virtual visits: Don’t be afraid to say no. There are some topics and medical needs that are not appropriate for a phone call or video chat. In some cases, you will need to see the patient in person. You are obviously the most qualified person to make this judgement, and if you determine that you need to see the patient in your office, explain why and get the patient in. Some people are not going to like it, but to avoid a problem, don’t compromise. Most medical malpractice claims are misdiagnosed or undiagnosed issues. These risks are even higher in a virtual visit.
If you have questions about your medical malpractice insurance, and how to get the most out of your Telemedicine malpractice insurance coverage, contact us at eQuoteMD. We have insurance options and solutions for Telemedicine for any specialty in every state.