Digital healthcare of all types is on the increase and it’s not just as a result of the COVID-19 lockdowns. The pandemic was a catalyst for a growing industry with increasing demand. Certainly there was a drive toward digital through 2020 and 2021, but advancing technology had already made this drive possible. In fact some industry observers refer to it as an “explosion,” in both the scope and scale of new approaches to healthcare.
Digital healthcare is not new
Of course there are the more traditional areas that have long been digitized like cloud databases hosting medical records and appointment booking systems and the technology facilitating workflow management systems within healthcare organizations. And there is the longstanding role played by telehealth and video conferencing solutions.
Augmented reality and virtual reality were also previously being used to deliver healthcare support for people suffering from depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and similar conditions. AI, meanwhile was increasingly being integrated into healthcare processes, including diagnosis and even triaging patients.
So the pandemic and resulting lockdowns, simply sped up the pace of digital integration into the healthcare system.
Releiving pressure on an overburdened system
With enormous pressure on our healthcare system, technology promises to improve the standard of healthcare people receive, reduce the cost of providing that healthcare and to make it accessible to more and more people. The workload of overstretched medical professionals should be greatly reduced — and with it the incidences of errors and omissions — and the increasingly expensive compensation payouts that threaten to push healthcare over the brink of affordability.
But as with all giant technological leaps, when we ask, “what could possibly go wrong?” We often open a pandora’s box.
What could possibly go wrong?
First there is the minefield of licensing and regulatory requirements which differ from state to state and country to country. As telemedicine removes geographical restraints, providers must take extra care that they act in compliance with regulatory laws in the different areas they cover and are licensed to provide the service in those areas.
Any error of judgement in licensing and regulation opens both the healthcare provider and professionals they employ to not only disciplinary action, but also to potential litigation when things go wrong for the patient.
Theoretically, as with other applications, AI should improve the quality of healthcare by removing human error; but that is not always the case. With something as complex as diagnosis, a doctor will often rely on more than just a list of visual signs to diagnose a condition. Decisions can be accurately guided by intuition, something we will possibly never even fully understand, let alone be able build into our AI software applications.
One only has to look at the gobbledygook still spewed out by AI writing programs after more than a decade of continuous improvement, to realize that the technology is still very much in its infancy.
It’s a sobering thought to imagine it being used to dictate life-or-death decisions in an application like triage.
New threats of litigation
With this in mind, while the applications for digital health are limitless, so are the possibilities of litigation. We are beginning to see the emergence of a whole new realm where traditional errors and omissions overlaps cyber security: For instance, a misdiagnosis, combined with a data breach and leak of medical records.
According to leading medical insurance provider, CFC, “One of the longstanding problems for the digital healthcare sector has been the potential for the boundaries between healthcare professional, technology and cyber liabilities to become blurred if there are multiple policies in force.”
The company says that while Medical misdiagnosis remains the biggest single source of claims and accounts for around a quarter of those settled., 70% of claims have come from areas which would not be covered under a traditional medical malpractice policy from 2018 – 2021.
So it is essential that all medical professionals and organizations who are utilizing digital healthcare speak to a professional who can assess the insurance cover they currently hold and update it to protect them from new possible areas of litigation.
The Westwood Insurance group work closely with leading providers like CFC and our agents understand the increasingly complex needs of digital health providers. Talk to us today.
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