Evolving Healthcare Environment Creates New Medical Malpractice Risks

July 28, 2020
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New diseases. New models of care. New risks. The healthcare environment has been changing rapidly, and that’s creating new medical malpractice risks to watch out for.

COVID-19 and Liability

Because COVID-19 is a new illness, medical professionals are still learning about the possible symptoms and best treatment options. In some cases, this has led to heated debate, especially in the case of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug that Reuters says has been touted by President Trump but has also been linked to an increased risk of death.

The confusion and lack of agreement could lead to increased liability risks for medical professionals. As of July 21, more than 140 thousand U.S. deaths have been attributed to the coronavirus, based on CDC data. Many more people have been sickened, sometimes seriously so.     

There have been some efforts to protect medical workers from liability associated with COVID-19. The AMA states that the CARES Act created liability protections for volunteer medical workers, and according to Law.com, New York, New Jersey and Michigan have established rules to shield medical workers from liability. Despite these liability protections, lawsuits can still be filed, and some lawyers are still expecting medical malpractice lawsuits related to COVID-19.

Delayed Care

In some areas, COVID-19 outbreaks have resulted in shortages of ventilators and personal protective equipment while filling hospitals near capacity and overworking the medical staff.

At the same time, many patients have put off important care. This includes routine and preventative care, as well as care needed to treat serious and life-threatening diseases. For example, Oncology Nursing News says the pandemic’s impact on cancer has started to become apparent, with fewer screenings, visits and referrals.

This disruption could mean worse results for patients, and it may result in increased liability exposures for medical staff.  

The Rise of Telemedicine

Before the pandemic, telemedicine was already gaining popularity. When the stay-at-home orders hit, telemedicine became the go-to way to get care without risking exposure to the coronavirus. According to Healthcare IT News, a survey found that approximately two-thirds of people say the pandemic has increased their willingness to try telemedicine for care. 

While telemedicine solves some problems, it may create others. According to an article in the National Law Review, many physicians wonder whether the use of telemedicine in place of in-office risks will increase liability risks. For example, when the provider is in one state and the patient is in another, lawsuits may be filed in a state where the provider is not licensed, leading to complications.  

Get the Solutions You Need

The healthcare landscape is constantly evolving, resulting in new and changing risks. Turn to Heffernan for medical malpractice coverage along with additional solutions and services to help healthcare groups run smoothly. Learn more about medical malpractice coverage.