No cases of medical malpractice against direct-to-consumer telemedicine services have been found, according to a study recently published in JAMA. Additional research is needed to investigate malpractice in telemedicine-level and claims-level data.
This study included 551 reported cases of medical malpractice among direct-to-consumer telemedicine services, in which a reported case was defined as a case with a court decision. Queries included the keywords telemedicine, telehealth, direct-to-consumer, DTC, direct-to-patient, malpractice, internet, online, app, doctor, physician, and the names of 10 large direct-to-consumer telemedicine services. Relevance to direct-to-consumer telemedicine was assessed, with the following inclusion criteria used: a case brought against or by a direct-to-consumer telemedicine representative or service, or the naming of a healthcare professional as a defendant in such a case. Selected cases were then screened for relevance to medical malpractice.
There were no medical malpractice claims against direct-to-consumer telemedicine professionals or services among the reported cases identified in this study. This could be due to the fact that most conditions typically treated with telemedical care (including allergies, flu, respiratory infections, and sinus problems) are not as vulnerable to malpractice cases, whereas physicians with higher malpractice risk do not deliver telemedical treatment to consumers or at all. Another potential reason is that these new practices take strategic approaches to minimize risk for malpractice.
A limitation to this study was the inability to investigate unreported, ongoing, confidentially arbitrated, or privately settled claims.
Study researchers concluded that “[this] study found no reported cases of medical malpractice in [direct-to-consumer] telemedicine. Further research on claims-level or telemedicine service–level data would provide additional insight.”
Author JC Kvedar reports associations with Claritas Mindsciences, Medtronic Care Management Services, and Lumin Dx.
Fogel AL, Kvedar JC. Reported cases of medical malpractice in direct-to-consumer telemedicine. JAMA. 2019;321(13):1309-1310.