While going to the doctor is not the most enjoyable task, some Montana residents find it difficult to find a reputable specialist in their area, making it an important appointment to make and attend. In some cases, seeing a doctor face to face is not easily accomplished. Because of this, the growing trend of telemetry medicine or telemedicine has occurred. This provides patients with the access to medical professional; however, because the doctor is unable to see a patient first-hand, this type of medicine is subject to certain medical errors and mistakes, especially in the diagnostic phase.

Are telemedicine patients at a higher risk of misdiagnosis? A recent study focused on 16 online telemedicine companies, focusing on diagnoses of dermatologists and the medicines they prescribed. Based on the information in this study, researcher found that some online physicians not only misdiagnosed skin diseases, disorders and illnesses but also prescribed their online patients medications without first receiving their medical history.

The study was based on 62 clinical encounters from 16 different dermatological telemedicine websites. In all of these encounters, not one patient asked for identification, explanation or raised any concerns regarding pseudonyms or photograph use. Additionally, 68 percent of the patients were assigned to a clinician without the patient making any choice regarding any criteria of the physician. In 16 of these 62 encounters or 26 percent, information was provided about the clinician’s licensure.

Of the 62 encounters in the study, 48 resulted in a diagnosis or a likely diagnosis, and of those, 31 patients were ordered a prescription medicine. In those 31 encounters, only 10 were provided the adverse effects of the medication and 6 of the 14 females prescribed medicine were told about the relevant pregnancy risks associated with the medicine. Based the final diagnoses of these 48 encounters, researchers in the study found that while several correct diagnoses were made, some major diagnoses were repeatedly missed. Because most failed to obtain important information such as past medical history, the study found that these telemedicine clinicians failed to ask both important and simple relevant questions.

While telemedicine has great potential, it does currently raise the concern about the quality of diagnosis and treatment plans. A misdiagnosis could result in disease progression or even worsened conditions. A medical malpractice suit could hold a negligent clinician liable for their wrongdoings, helping a patient recover compensation for their injuries and losses.

Source: Jamanetwork.com, “Choice, Transparency, Coordination, and Quality Among Direct-to-Consumer Telemedicine Websites and Apps Treating Skin Disease,” Jack S, Resneck, Jr. et al, May 15, 2016