As we all know a little too well, an overabundance of healthcare inventions purport to be revolutionary new technology. Unlike many of them, however, teleradiology really is — even though it’s not that “new.” And as we’re all now beginning to realize, that deafening roar we hear is the whole industry buzzing about it.

Teleradiology represents a new healthcare paradigm of speed and economy, one that makes specialists and quality imaging available anywhere, any time. It’s far more than a long-distance diagnostic tool. But with all its promise comes an equally profound downside: obsolete and/or conflicting legislation, proposed standards no one agrees on, and uncontrollable invasions of privacy. And as these clashes are resolved, their outcomes will completely transform the liability twilight zone we know and love.

The entire healthcare industry is watching telerad intently, and not just because of its myriad applications. Consider the area of jurisdiction. A teleradiologist may very well have a patient in another state. In the event of a conflict, the way it works now is that the radiologist can be sued in the state where he or she works, in the state where the patient lives, and in any other states where the doctor has telemed links. Furthermore, other physicians in the clinic may be implicated, as well as assistants, technologists, BMETs and IT people, not to mention the primary-care physician. Telecommunications companies, equipment vendors and software developers also are likely targets, especially if there’s an equipment issue. And even if nothing is wrong with the equipment, a patient may still sue a provider for failure to use it.

Please refer to the April 2002 issue for the complete story. For information on article reprints, contact Martin St. Denis