Tristan Serri


It has been said numerous times that the law runs five years behind technology. Although this lag frequently causes numerous difficulties in all aspects of law, this delay is even more impactful in telemedicine. While all fields of telemedicine are expanding rapidly across the United States, the majority of states and the federal government have not yet implemented proper laws and procedures to protect both providers of telemedicine and their patients. The dearth of needed protocols and protections is even more pronounced when examining the subfield of telepsychiatry.

In particular, the malpractice law surrounding telepsychiatry when dealing with patients with suicidal ideations is dramatically underdeveloped, if not entirely absent. To address at least some of these concerns, this comment proposes a solution that will resolve questions of malpractice standards and malpractice liability for practitioners of telepsychiatry. This comment suggests that, because telepsychiatrists who treat suicidal patients deliver care in a setting that varies greatly from standard treatment settings and because they are less capable of deploying protective measures should patients pose a serious risk of harm to themselves or to others, telepsychiatrists should be held to a higher standard of care than traditional psychiatrists. There is an epidemic of suicides in the United States and mental health professionals need clear guidelines as to how to properly conduct telepsychiatric care—for both practitioner and patient safety. The law makers of the country would be well advised to address these issues before it is too late.