Sustainable Telehealth: Malpractice Insurance

By Jim Tate, EMR Advocate
Twitter: @jimtate, eMail:
Host of The Tate Chronicles#TateDispatches

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic a widespread adoption of telehealth technologies took place in matter of weeks. Only now, during the transition to what is being called “Sustainable Telehealth”, are some fundamental questions being asked. Last week I received an email from a provider with a simple inquiry: “Does malpractice insurance usually cover telehealth?” That question leads to a broader issue that includes such topics as “best practices” for healthcare delivery as well as risk reduction for a practice or clinic.

There is the potential of healthcare delivered by telehealth to fall below what is considered “the accepted standard of practice”. The greatest danger I have seen is the lack of adequate clinical documentation. In some cases, I am seeing there is no documentation at all, other than that related to billing. It is all too easy when a telehealth encounter occurs, especially if it is a phone call, to overlook the need to document in the patient’s record. Proper documentation, as all providers know, is without doubt one of the foundational pillars of healthcare.

I reached out to several malpractice insurance companies in recent weeks and found a wide range of responses to my questions about telehealth coverage. Some of them offered policies that covered telehealth as a base offering while in other cases an additional rider was required. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic some states have taken steps to relax licensure requirements and, in some cases, providers are being allowed to practice across state lines. If you are providing healthcare via telehealth in this type of situation you better be sure your malpractice coverage includes the new geographic regions.

It is important that providers who have adopted telehealth, contact their malpractice insurance company without delay. Find out if telehealth is presently covered by your policy and if there are any limitations you need to be aware of that would affect your decisions as to appropriate use cases of the technology.

In the move to sustainable telehealth this is just one of the bridges to cross. A quick call to check in with your malpractice insurer should be one of the first steps.

This article was originally published on Medivisum and is republished here with permission.