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Legal risks on par with other health care

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Offering telemedicine services to employees poses risks that are no greater than other forms of health care, experts say.

“We don't really expect that (employers) are going to have any increased liability by picking this telemedicine vendor versus that telemedicine vendor,” said Jim O'Connor, Manasquan, New Jersey-based president of employee benefits with CBIZ Inc.

“It's a voluntary service. It's a member calling in to initiate the service, and there's limitations and restrictions in terms of the scope of services and the pharmacy prescribing methodology, so I think the risk is extremely low,” said Leah Malof, Sarasota, Florida-based principal and national clinical and audit practice leader at Buck Consultants at Xerox.

Most direct-to-consumer telemedicine doctors also practice medicine privately, so they are covered by their own medical malpractice insurance, said Danny Talley, Denver-based director of voluntary benefits for the central region at Hub International Ltd.

In addition, large telemedicine providers such as Teladoc Inc. and MDLive Inc. cover their doctors while they are on the job, he said.

“I'm sure we will see more issues when they really start to treat more serious types of conditions,” he said.

“There's always going to be risks where not having the physical presence and connection with a patient” makes it more difficult for a physician to make a diagnosis, said Leo Carroll, New York-based senior vice president of Berkshire Hathaway Specialty Insurance's health care professional liability practice, which includes telemedicine in its professional liability coverage.

However, he said he has yet to see claims that “directly involve the misdiagnosis because of telemedicine.”

Another concern is the potential for a data breach exposing patients' personal medical information, Mr. Talley said. “Nothing is 100% safe.”