Ways of providing medical services are constantly developing and changing to become better and more successful in caring for the population’s health. Such an aspect of medicine as telehealth involves using telecommunication technologies for various health services. Telehealth is aimed at medical care, training providers and patients, providing information, communication between patients and providers, and self-help. This type of care provision forms a unique setting for interaction between patients and medical staff, excluding personal contact. The features of telehealth create additional difficulties and therefore require more high qualifications and skills. Despite the rapid proliferation of technologies and the positive effects of their application, they can still pose some challenges, including ethical issues.
Healthcare and its continuous development give rise to many ethical dilemmas and questions. Using telehealth techniques, video communications, e-mail, remote home monitoring, and similar technologies are utilized. They imply unique behavior and control of unusual aspects, for example, the quality of an Internet connection or the absence of noise in the office when communicating. Telehealth is subject to the same ethical standards and codes as personal meetings with patients (Rutledge et al., 2017). However, due to their peculiarities, some problems change and require additional attention. For example, the main concern is the safety of patient data, the erosion of relations between providers and patients, informed consent, satisfaction with services, and their accessibility.
Information technology poses many threats to the privacy of personal information, and in healthcare, this aspect is essential. The information provided by patients relates to their personal lives, and its protection by medical staff is critical for establishing trusting relationships (Langarizadeh et al., 2017). Safety issues are regulated by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) (Rutledge et al., 2017). According to established standards, suppliers are responsible for ensuring that the information environment in which communication occurs within the framework of telehealth is protected. Nurses must have the skills to use technology efficiently and safely to support patients’ privacy.
Another important ethical aspect of work that becomes more complicated with telehealth use is informed consent. As in personal communication, patients should agree to conduct an assessment of their condition and intervention. Langarizadeh et al. (2017) note that the main components of informed consent are a complete treatment description, expected improvement and potential problems, alternative processes, and procedures that the patient can cancel. In the context of telehealth tools, it is necessary to clarify and provide information on how technologies are used, and what their advantages, disadvantages, and risks are. Moreover, it is crucial to consider the patient’s abilities in using technology and that they may need the help of a guardian. Due to the difficulties and peculiarities in the use of telehealth, informed consent is critical.
Thus, telehealth tools are becoming increasingly common in maintaining people’s health. However, they, like all innovations, give rise to new ethical dilemmas and questions. Ethics in treating patients is critical as they trust their lives to health care professionals. Moreover, the trust established as a result of ethical relations contributes to better health outcomes. This paper provides a discussion of examples of ethical issues requiring nurses’ attention during the provision of telehealth services. For example, significant effort, skills, and knowledge are needed to protect patient’s data. Another aspect, informed consent, involves attention to the distinctive features of telehealth, particularly the patient’s ability to use technology.
Langarizadeh, M., Moghbeli, F., & Aliabadi, A. (2017). Application of ethics for providing telemedicine services and information technology. Medical Archives (Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina), 71(5), 351–355.
Rutledge, C. M., Kott, K., Schweickert, P. A., Poston, R., Fowler, C., & Haney, T. S. (2017). Telehealth and eHealth in nurse practitioner training: Current perspectives. Advances in Medical Education and Practice, 8, 399–409.