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Medical malpractice found lurking in teledermatology practices

As video chatting and photo sharing have become an everyday part of life, the medical field has adapted to include the technology in its practicing methods. Patients in California and other parts of the United States can now have their dermatologic concerns addressed via the Internet through teledermatology. While convenient, the direct-to-consumer model might be a harbinger of medical malpractice.

DTC teledermatology is just one branch of telemedicine in which a patient never has any physical contact with a physician but instead interacts online through either video, voice or pictures. A recent study focused in on teledermatology after concerns regarding incorrect diagnoses and breach of guidelines were raised. The physicians behind the study posed as patients and submitted six different dermatologic cases to be reviewed, diagnosed and treated.

In total, 77 percent of the ailments received a diagnosis, and of those 65 involved prescription medication orders. However, information regarding adverse side effects were rarely disclosed. Although the missed diagnoses were a concern for the authors of the study, especially given the commonality of some of the conditions -- including eczema -- they expressed worry over the manner in which patients are assigned physicians. Clinician licensure was disclosed barely a quarter of the time, while some California-based teledermatology companies used international physicians without any type of local license.

The researchers behind this study believe that DTC teledermatology can be an effective alternative to face-to-face appointments, but they are also concerned that the current method is not living up to that opportunity. They recommend that that licensed physicians within the same region as patients be assigned these types of cases because the current quality of diagnosis and subsequent treatment for skin conditions is far from ideal. As the current system stands, patients are at risk for falling victim to medical malpractice due to an incorrect diagnosis and treatment regimen. When this causes further harm or injury, victims often have few options other than to seek legal and financial recourse through a medical malpractice suit.

Source:, "Teledermatology Study Raises Misdiagnosis Concerns", Denise Rosenfeld, May 16, 2016

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