4 Hidden Risks of Telemedicine
As communication technology advances and most interactions and record-keeping practices go digital, telemedicine services have increased in popularity. While this innovative approach to healthcare has provided a lot of benefits for patients and professionals alike, it also involves many hidden risks that risk managers and policy management teams must find solutions for.
The medical industry and the public now accept Telehealth practices, and authorities regulate it across the United States and around the world. Risk increases as distance healthcare becomes more popular. From a risk management perspective, however, this type of medical practice has several important, unforeseen liability issues.
1. Geo-specific Coverage and Liability
Physicians and other medical professionals receive a license to practice from their state. When they use telemedicine systems, they run the risk of treating someone outside of their allowed area. This brings up liability issues, especially in cases of malpractice or patient dissatisfaction. While doctors should handle this issue themselves, risk management teams must remain aware of potential issues.
2. Patient Data Security and Privacy
Any time IT systems become responsible for important data like medical records and identifying information, the overall security of the information presents a considerable risk. When it comes to tele-health., this is even more important because of HIPPA and other healthcare-specific privacy laws. When engaging in policy management, the organization responsible for the system itself must ensure the latest security measures.
3. Insurance Coverage Issues
From the perspective of both the patient and the physician providing care over the Internet, questions about payments and insurance coverage truly matter. The risk of carriers not covering telemedicine services is still quite high. Part of the risk manager's job is to make sure that the systems only allow for people who are covered when using this innovative treatment technique. Adopting a comprehensive system to organize and track policies and insurance rules will help alleviate these concerns.
4. Technical Risk for System Function
Any new technology carries some risk associated with the system itself. While some organizations focus on security, the hardware and software that make telemedicine possible can also introduce hidden risks to the process. Everything needs proper maintenance, regular updates, and technical upgrades when new advances hit the market. The health organization with risk managers on the job can use their special skills to develop an appropriate service schedule.
Patients can also experience issues with the technical side of their medical communication and treatment. Some people simply do not have access to powerful or secure Internet connections and hardware. Others may engage in high-risk behaviors that threaten data privacy and security. Part of a distance doctor's concern should include patient education to protect themselves.
A large part of risk management responsibilities includes identifying potential problems like these and combating them proactively. In tele-health, this process becomes even more important because of the potential for catastrophic problems with misdiagnosis, insurance fraud, HIPPA violations, and more. Keeping track of technology, ensuring access to patients in covered locations only, and careful insurance policy management go a long way to preventing these and other issues.