Amidst all the interesting legal and regulatory issues implicated by telemedicine, one issue less discussed is the potential liability exposure associated with telemedicine. Many critics have argued that the nature of how telemedicine services are provided will naturally lead to increased risk for malpractice. Available data does not support the argument—at least not yet.
While not a lot of data exists, the Physician Insurers Association of America (“PIAA”) published a July 2015 article comparing telephone treatment medical professional liability (“MPL”) claims versus overall MPL claims reflected in the PIAA Data Sharing Project (“DSP”)—a very large database of MPL claims. Here are the numbers:
- Of the 94,228 total claims in the DSP during the period from 2004-2013, a total of only 196 claims were linked with telephone treatment.
- Of those 196 reported claims, 56 resulted in some form of claim payment.
- The total indemnity loss related to telephone treatment was only $17 million, compared to $8 billion for the total of all MPL losses.
- Telephone treatment claims represented only about 0.21% of all MPL losses.
- The average indemnity loss was also lower for telephone treatment at $303,691, compared to $328,815 for all MPL claims within the DSP.