Physicians have been consulting with each other since the practice of medicine began, but now the ability to get guidance, advice and discuss treatment options is coming in a new form: telemedicine. No longer relegated to just making telephone calls, a consultation can be a video conference and include the medical staff, as well as the patient and the patient’s family. In a recent study using pediatric cases in rural hospitals, the use of telemedicine greatly reduced the number of wrong drug prescriptions given to children who visited the rural hospital’s ERs.
The study shows that for physicians who used telemedicine for consultation, there was just a three percent error rate regarding a prescribed drug. That is significantly lower than the 11 percent error rate for physicians who had a consultation by phone and 13 percent who didn’t consult with anyone. The study did not follow whether the drugs were administered before or after the consultation, or whether or not the children being treated fared better.
One reason that telemedicine could be more effective is that physician being brought in for a consultation can see the patient, talk to the patient and gather more information, in a group setting in which everyone can see each other . Also, a specialist who can see and talk to a patient might pick up on signs and symptoms that other medical personnel missed. This can lead to a better treatment outcome.
The telemedicine conferencing costs roughly $2,000 for each use. However, when compared to the costs of having to life-flight a person to a larger facility, the equipment and costs will pay for themselves.
This is good news for patients because it could lead to fewer cases of doctor negligence and better overall treatment and care. However, for those who have been adversely affected by a drug given in the wrong dose or the wrong drug entirely, compensation for the error could be available. Speaking with a legal representative with experience in this area could shed light on any relief to which a person in this position might be entitled.
Source: Reuters, “Telemedicine consults may reduce errors at rural ERs” Genevra Pittman, Nov. 25, 2013