Agents must keep up with developments in telehealth and telemedicine malpractice insurance

by | Dec 11, 2022

Sometimes with rapid advances in technology, litigation laws and insurance policies lag behind. This is a danger with telemedicine malpractice insurance. In this climate of change, if insurance agents are going to continue providing the best possible service to their clients, they must keep up with all the laws, legislation, and potential new areas of vulnerability for clients. They must also have an insight into how the coverage offered by different insurers has kept pace with this.

Existing medical malpractice coverage may be inadequate

For instance, when physicians who have spent years in a traditional practice begin to use telemedicine for some of their consultations, the policy they have been covered may not properly cover these new areas. The physician may also be unaware of laws they are potentially violating when they work with patients who live in other jurisdictions.

Even telehealth leaders have stumbled in this legal minefield

Take the University of Mississippi Medical Center, for instance. Its Center for telehealth is connected to more than 200 locations across Mississippi, a state which has the worst physician shortage in the country with a ratio of just 186 doctors to every 100,000 people.

Mississippi also has the unenviable reputation of being the US state with the highest rates of diabetes, low birthweights and death from heart disease. So, telehealth should be a perfect fit, particularly for the rural areas with limited access to healthcare. Michael Adcock, executive director at the Center for telehealth sums up their mission, saying: “Your care and your treatment shouldn’t be dictated by your ZIP code.”

However, this leading telehealth provider recently found themselves facing litigation when they overlooked some important state healthcare legislation.

The University of Mississippi Medical Center was sued by the parents of a young Mississippi girl who suffered permanent brain damage as a result of treatment she received. She was originally diagnosed by a pediatric neurosurgeon in Louisiana who continued to direct her care, communicating electronically with the care providers in Mississippi.

The federal district court hearing the case, permitted the plaintiffs to pursue a claim based on allegations that nurses in Mississippi are not permitted to administer prescriptions issued by a medical professional not licensed in that state. In fact, the state’s Nurse Practice Act specifically defines aiding or abetting someone not licensed in Mississippi in performing activities that require a professional license—as “unprofessional conduct.”

The court also allowed a claim of corporate negligence to proceed against corporate officers of the Center for telehealth, based on the plaintiff’s argument that Mississippi regulations required home-health agencies to have a governing body that sets agency policies for patient care.

Agents must be proactive when assisting clients who are moving into telehealth

It is critical that when agents are discussing insurance coverage with any organization or medical professional who works in telehealth; that they are satisfied the client is aware of the possible legal consequences of diagnosing patients or prescribing treatment across state boundaries. This obviously includes attempting to continue caring for existing patients who move interstate. Prescribing medication across state lines without conducting an in-person examination can even lead to criminal charges in some states. Something that may void their insurance policy and leave them personally liable for damages awards.

But the dangers of telehealth litigation don’t end there. The biggest risk is misdiagnosis, due to the limits of virtual examinations. When a medical professional who is accustomed to conducting in-person examinations must begin relying on a visual exam, combined with the patient’s own interpretation of their symptoms, a lot of contextual clues are missed and there is a bigger margin for error.

If, as an individual agent you are unable to keep up with the fast-moving telehealth legal landscape, it makes sense to work with a leading medical malpractice broker like the Westwood Insurance Group, who have the resources and long-term industry relationships to keep abreast of developments in this field. Click here to apply to join our team.

If you’re a medical professional or part of an organization who is moving into telehealth and you’re unsure of how effective your current insurance coverage is, Click here to contact us and one of our insurance professionals will help you.

More details on the University of Mississippi Medical Center case can be found on the American Bar Association’s website

About Dale Nelson

Dale has worked in the insurance industry since leaving college, specializing in the healthcare niche. He has developed long-term relationships with insurance carriers and retailers in the Medical Professional Liability area. Dale has worked with carriers, retailers and brokers and so works effectively at helping agents solve problems for their clients.
More about Dale Nelson

other articles that may interest you

Social Media presents an deluge of challenges for Medical Facilities

Unacceptable behavior by physicians and healthcare professionals is on the rise, corresponding with increased attacks on physicians by patientsLive streaming of surgical procedures, particularly plastic surgery has become increasingly popular in recent years and while...

Could the technology behind Bitcoin help secure medical records?

Cyber security is a growing problem for healthcare providers, who often struggle to keep the records of their patients secure. Cyber insurance coverage is not generally mandated by law and many healthcare organizations remain uninsured, even though laws and...

Agents should work with a good medical malpractice broker

Just another mouth to feed is possibly the first thought when considering the use of a wholesale broker, and in many instances there is an element of truth to that. When you set out working as an independent agent, as with any other field, there is a temptation to “do...

A lesson in Liability Insurance for Chiropractors

A visit to the chiropractor for a 32-year-old patient in Georgia recently led to a $75 million medical malpractice verdict. The claim related to emergency treatment the patient received after collapsing with a brainstem stroke, resulting from chiropractic manipulation...

Liability mitigation is essential for senior living facilities

The senior living industry is under the microscope as more and more people are affected by COVID-19. With two million of America's most vulnerable people currently in senior living facilities and nursing homes, it is essential that the industry looks seriously at...

the impact of social inflation on insurance premiums

Social inflation is a buzzword insurers use to explain the rising costs of insurance claims resulting from primarily increasing litigation arising from more plaintiff-friendly legal decisions and larger compensatory jury awards. While many industry experts put it down...

Senior Care Facilities Rethink Operations post COVID-19

With workers in elder care facilities leaving the industry in droves, assisted living and skilled nursing facilities continue to face pandemic problems. A Morning Consult poll from September 2021, found that 20% of healthcare workers quit during the pandemic, while...

GenStar™ – Stability in an uncertain market

The healthcare industry has been rocked with more change in the last two years than we've seen in decades, which has led to uncertainty for insurers. The pandemic and the associated implementation of government policies left many people with negative perceptions of...

insurance for hospitals

Hospital Insurance typically covers all or part of the potential liability for hospital services. It includes medical malpractice, accidents involving hospital employees and equipment, care during surgery or any other invasive treatment, after-hours care arrangements by staff who need help with their children and more.

insurance for long term care facilities

Long term care facilities must protect themselves against potential liability arising from incidents within their facility. Westwood can help you negotiate a package tailored to your long term care facility client.

insurance for physicians

The different types of insurance for physicians includes medical malpractice insurance, professional liability insurance, errors and omissions insurance, an umbrella policy, and professional indemnity. As a physician, you should have access to all of these types of insurance.