We all know that the internet is significantly changing the delivery of health care in Australia. Some healthcare practitioners can now Face-time patients, view patient data through secure online services and conduct various health assessments virtually. While the benefits of virtual care are obvious (convenience, accessibility, on-demand services and reduced wait-times), it is not without medical and legal risks.
What is technology based medical practice?
The Medical Board defines ‘technology-based medical practice’ as any patient consultation that uses technology as an alternative to a face to face consultation. This might include video conferencing, internet chat, an online questionnaire or a telephone consultation.
Tego wants you to know the risks
The primary risk of technology-based medical practice is that the practitioner could fail to fulfil their duty of care to their patient. As medical indemnity insurance and entity medical malpractice insurance providers, you need to know there are risks when dealing with different aspects of a virtual practice.
AHPRA’s Good Medical Practice Guide sets out general principles for the practice of medicine that practitioners need to satisfy when treating a patient, in person or via technology. Notably practitioners must:
- Practice medicine safely and effectively;
- Not take advantage of the patient;
- Communicate effectively;
- Take into account the patient’s history, views and an appropriate physical examination, where clinically necessary;
- Formulate and implement a suitable management plan, including arranging any follow-up investigations that are clinically appropriate;
- Make appropriate referrals;
- Encourage patients to be well informed about their health; and
- Not exploit patients in any way, including financially.
The AHPRA Guidelines for Technology-Based Consultation provide more specific guidance for virtual care models. These Guidelines apply to both practitioners and employers of medical practitioners. Practitioners must:
- Make a judgment about the appropriateness of a technology-based consultation and whether a direct physical exam is necessary;
- Make their identity known to the patient and confirm the patient’s identity;
- Perform an appropriate examination;
- Ensure any prescribed medication is not contra-indicated;
- Ensure there is an appropriate mechanism for following-up the patient, if necessary;
- Ensure they are confident their medical advice will be clearly communicated to the patient in a manner the patient will understand; and
- Ensure there is an adequate plan in place to deal with emergencies.
Before deciding to engage in any virtual care model, healthcare practitioners should review the relevant Guidelines and satisfy themselves that the proposed virtual model will enable them to fulfil their professional obligations to their patients. Ultimately it is a matter for each practitioner to decide whether a technology-based model is clinically appropriate.
The Tego Insurance team specialises in technology and health care. If you would like specific advice about your circumstances, please contact us! Tego Insurance offers medical indemnity insurance for medical practitioners underwritten by Berkshire Hathaway, a brand globally synonymous with trust and integrity. We have a profound understanding of the Australian medical profession and the ever-changing healthcare industry. It’s this expertise that allows us to provide leading cover with more choice, innovation and greater flexibility.
This publication is general in nature and is not comprehensive or constitute legal or medical advice. You should seek legal, medical or other professional advice before relying on any content, and practice proper clinical decision making with regard to individual circumstances. Persons implementing any recommendations contained in this publication must exercise their own independent skill or judgment or seek appropriate professional advice relevant to their own particular practice. Compliance with any recommendations will not in any way guarantee discharge of the duty of care owed to patients and others coming into contact with the health professional or practice. Tego Insurance Pty Ltd is not responsible to you or anyone else for any loss suffered in connection with the use of this information.
Eric is the CEO of Tego, an insurance agency offering specialist indemnity insurance solutions for the healthcare and life sciences sectors. His qualifications include a bachelor’s degree in business and law, a master’s degree from UNSW in law and management and an MBA from the AGSM.