What you need to know about telehealth medicine, tech innovations and the new exposures they create.
As the healthcare landscape shifts from fee-for-service to fee-for-value, companies and physicians providing telehealth services are becoming essential in improving access to care.
Businesses like American Well, Doctor on Demand and Teladoc are part of a growing marketplace that reached $14 billion in 2014. Telehealth is also gaining political support. Twenty-nine states have passed legislation to support private pay for physicians providing services through telehealth platforms.
While demand for telehealth medicine is growing and the service is becoming more mainstream, telehealth physicians are being left at risk. Many standard market medical malpractice underwriters are not yet on board with covering telemedicine simply because the exposures are new, different and more expansive. Here is what you need to know to help keep your medical professional clients covered.
Patient-Centered Tools = Heightened Exposures
Telehealth services improve healthcare by offering after-hours access to physicians, second opinions, access to off-site specialists and enhancing available medical care. For many physicians, joining a telehealth company is a savvy way to supplement income as payments from traditional sources shrink.
Whether a physician is seeing patients in person or via a telehealth platform, they are required to carry medical malpractice coverage. This errors and omissions professional liability policy is designed to protect medical professionals from exposures that contribute to harm or death. Telehealth has heightened exposures due to errors or misdiagnoses that can occur when the patient and physician are not in the same room.
When a physician begins serving patients through a telehealth platform, it isn’t always clear if those same risk exposures are covered by the hospital’s professional liability, the delegated medical facility or the telehealth provider.
“Doctors are offering additional services, but can’t get medical malpractice coverage,” said Karl Olson, Vice President, Professional Liability Regional Practice Leader, at Burns & Wilcox Brokerage. “It’s important to talk to clients about how their practice is changing and to check to see if their current medical malpractice includes telemedicine.”
Retail brokers and agents can use an annual meeting to discuss expanded services and understand if their client’s needs are changing. Before meeting with a physician or healthcare provider, Olson suggests reviewing the news on the American Telehealth Association site. This resource will prepare retail brokers and agents to discuss industry trends and may even help clients find ways to grow their practice.
Privacy and Security
Aside from telehealth, physician interactions with patients are improving thanks to technological innovations. This includes advancement in personal devices allowing the detailed collection of medical information, like a blood sugar monitor or even just a laptop camera, that facilitate the medical providers’ review of personal health information (PHI) including heart rate and blood samples. Patients and physicians can now create and share more data between devices and electronic health records. As a result, cyber liability exposures have increased.
“From an insurance perspective, this creates a unique combination of product liability for the manufacturer, medical professional liability for the physician and cyber liability for the healthcare practice,” said Olson. “As PHI becomes more valuable on the black market and surpasses credit cards, medical professionals have greater exposures to data thieves and need to be working with brokers to have proper coverage.”
According to a report by Infosec, hackers are using stolen PHI for corporate extortion or for complete identity fraud. While a stolen credit card can be canceled, medical data is much longer lasting and therefore more useful for criminals.
In the face of rapidly changing technologies for both patient engagement and PHI transfer, retail brokers and agents must work with physicians to properly assess and limit exposures through the right combination of coverage. Take time during meetings with physicians and healthcare groups to discuss where their business is heading and what new exposures they might find.