4 Steps to Reducing Telemedicine Misdiagnosis

Telemedicine misdiagnosis is a challenge for doctors who are looking to use the platform.

For over two centuries, the Doctors in society have been the source for explaining why we feel ill, and what can be done to change that. Yet with the explosion of online information in the past 20 years, it is impossible for any doctor to have the reach of the Internet when it comes to potential diagnosis.

Telemedicine adoption is on the rise and the growth is quite staggering. According to Bob Doherty from the American College of Physicians, “Doctors who ignore this latest competitive force do so at their peril, as it builds upon trends like pharmacy-based clinics that are providing increasing options for patients unable to fit their medical care into a 9-to-5 time frame.”

When a patient requests a telemedicine visit with their doctor, they assume that most conditions that can be diagnosed in person can be also diagnosed over a video consult.

For doctors, the role to becoming qualified to diagnose takes between 10-15 years. For this reason, it is reasonable to expect them to have a higher accuracy rate than most of their patients. However, for doctors when using a virtual format, there can be a risk of telemedicine misdiagnosis.

Telemedicine misdiagnosis can occur if proper steps are not taken before, during and after the consultation. To help, here are 4 steps to ensure doctors avoid telemedicine misdiagnosis when using the platform.

1) Prepare before the Appointment

It is advisable to educate patients about how the virtual visit will occur, and what is to be expected. If the booking is done virtually through an App, it is good to send some form of email confirmation as well.

You may have a list of potential conditions that can be diagnosed and medications that can be prescribed via the telemedicine platform.

2) Listen First during the Appointment

Consider the limited time you have with the patient on the screen, and the fact that the patient has likely self-diagnosed to some extent.

According to Dr David Troxel, ‘As a caregiver, it’s safe to assume that patients will come into the office already attached to a perceived diagnosis and possibly using medications improperly, based on their own online research.’

You might start with a quick understanding of what the patient already knows, and what symptoms they are reporting with. As explained by Dr Atul Gawande, it might help to keep questionnaire checklists for any conditions that may have similar symptoms. This will help to rule out misdiagnosis or missing multiple conditions.

3) Setting clear next steps

Once a telemedicine visit has been completed, there must be a clear course of action in the patients mind. Whether it is to take a course of medication, to rest, or to visit the practice for tests, this should be clearly explained by the doctor during the call.

For doctors, a lot of these next steps are typically explained by assistants. But on a telemedicine call, the doctor must take care of this themselves.

4) Consistent Follow Up

If a patient thinks that simply calling and reporting symptoms is the only step required, they are less likely to find telemedicine effective. This is my follow up is a good idea.

If the Telemedicine platform allows the doctor to message the patient this can be a great way to further follow up check in whether the symptoms have ceased.

At a minimum it can be a good idea to have a member of the team call or email to check in on how the patient is recovering. This will both increase patient trust and reduce telemedicine misdiagnosis.

A large reason why patients may avoid getting clinical confirmation is either the time constraint or the cost. This is where the adoption of Telemedicine by doctors potentially plays a role in bridging the gap.

Telemedicine is an amazing bridging technology. It enables offer patients a more reliable source of qualified diagnosis than simply searching online. It can assist a patient in confirming an initial self-diagnosis, by allowing the doctor to use their clinical expertise to the patients’ advantage. Doctors may advise patients to either seek a specific type of over the counter solution, or they may advise the patient to visit the office for further diagnosis.

To reduce the risk of telemedicine misdiagnosis, there need to be stringent protocols in place. Clear diagnosis criteria and knowing which types of consultations can be diagnosed remotely is important. Proper practices will help to decrease the risk of telemedicine misdiagnosis, and increase patients health and satisfaction.