Navigating Telemedicine: What To Do When Medical Negligence Occurs

Navigating Telemedicine: What To Do When Medical Negligence Occurs
11 Oct 2021

Telemedicine refers to a medical consultation held over video conferencing or mobile application platforms, rather than being in-person. Telemedicine has been around for a few years but has seen a recent surge in popularity and accessibility due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The process of a telemedicine consultation varies across the doctor, clinic, or service providing it. Most telemedicine services in Singapore offer healthcare consultations with digital Medical Certificates (MCs) for patients - making this service highly useful for those who cannot or do not wish to leave their house to seek proper healthcare.

As telemedicine is still a relatively new field, there is a lack of specific regulation surrounding the practice in Singapore. Nevertheless, it is important to know your rights as a patient as well as options for legal recourse if you suspect that medical negligence has taken place in a telemedicine setting.

Rights as a patient

Patients have certain rights when pursuing a medical negligence case. These include:

  • Right to all information
  • Right to make decisions
  • Right to privacy and confidentiality

These rights also apply in telemedicine, although the context might be different. For example, a telemedicine doctor failing to refer the patient for an in-person consultation despite the patient mentioning new or dire symptoms during the session. When this results in severe consequences for the patient (e.g. amputation, severe illness, or death), legal recourse can be sought by the patient or on the patient’s behalf.

Medical negligence and telemedicine in Singapore

As of now, Singapore does not have any specific laws pertaining to telemedicine, and the National Telemedicine Guidelines provided to healthcare professionals are honour-based rather than enforcing strict legal and professional expectations.

Common law might apply to certain aspects of telemedicine, such as the law of tort when a dispute arises in relation to the contract signed between the patient and healthcare or service provider. Civil litigation is thus one such avenue where legal recourse can be sought. Find out more about legal recourse in cases of medical negligence in our blog.

What to do if you have experienced possible medical negligence

If you have experienced potential medical negligence over telemedicine:

  1. File a complaint with the Singapore Medical Council (SMC)

If you suspect medical negligence by an individual healthcare professional has taken place, you may file an official complaint with the SMC. The SMC will review the case, and may suggest additional courses of action. This can include mediation, opening a formal inquiry with the possibility of disciplinary action, or opening a health inquiry if the medical professional’s fitness to practise is called into question.

  1. File for mediation with the Singapore Mediation Centre

If your dispute is with the company or healthcare institution providing the telemedicine service, you can file a dispute with the Singapore Mediation Centre. The Centre will recommend mediation schemes, with the possibility of reaching a settlement out-of-court.

  1. Seek legal advice

If you are unsure of how to proceed in a potential case of medical negligence via telemedicine, you can reach out to a medical negligence lawyer for expert legal advice.

Our medical negligence lawyers specialise in dealing with issues related to medical negligence in Singapore. Pursuing a medical negligence case can be confusing and stressful for patients or their families, and we can help you navigate through the process. Reach out to us for more information.

For more information, please contact our Business Development Manager, Ricky Soetikno, at [email protected].