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Legislating for a New Age in Medicine: Defining the Telemedicine Standard of Care to Improve Healthcare in Iowa

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ABSTRACT: Telemedicine (also referred to as telehealth or e-health) is the use of technology to connect patients and healthcare providers from a distance, and it allows for accessible, efficient, cost-effective, and convenient healthcare. Most states, including Iowa, have not updated their laws to account for the rapid emergence of telemedicine. This leaves healthcare providers uncertain of the legal implications of using telemedicine and thus discourages its use for fear of malpractice liability. Iowa should define the standard of care for telemedicine while balancing two public policy concerns. First, it should seek to maximize the potential benefits of telemedicine, including its accessibility, efficiency, cost-effectiveness, and convenience. Second, it should seek to minimize the risks associated with telemedicine, most notably the risk of misdiagnosis when a patient forgoes an in-person examination by a physician. In legislating for this new age in medicine, Iowa should follow the approach of Hawaii and adopt a standard of care that recognizes the diagnostic disadvantage associated with telemedicine but affirms liability for physicians that fail to comply with regulatory guidelines.

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