Insurers warn about liability of telemedicine

Physicians should discuss the need for a specific informed consent form when considering the liabilities associated with telemedicine, according to a report based on a colloquium organized by the Physicians Insurers Association of America. The colloquium studied liability issues related to physicians' use of telemedicine, the Internet, and e-mail. The following are some of its recommendations:

· Physicians should document clinical information and the identity of any person participating in a telemedicine consultation.

· The health care provider should develop an agreement with any third-party source that may have access to confidential information that all records are to be kept confidential and will be used only for contracted and specific purposes. Third-party sources include vendors, equipment manufacturers, and systems consultants.

· Physician Web sites should contain appropriate disclaimers, to which a user should agree before proceeding to access the Web site.

· A physician Web site also should state clearly if the site is intended for commercial purposes.

· Physicians should avoid linking their sites to others because there is no way to control information presented at other sites.

· Physicians sending patient information by e-mail should use encryption and return receipts to confirm the e-mail was received.

· Practitioners also should keep copies of e-mail sent to patients in their medical records.