Telehealth: Ethical and Legal Challenges

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1. Introduction

The delivery of health care has always been influenced by technological developments and innovations. This is particularly true in modern health care professionals where they are obsessed with technology and rush to apply them. One of the most recent applications of ICT – Information and computer technology- is telehealth. Telehealth is the use of communication, diagnostic and information technology to provide health care when patients and providers are geographically separated [2], Technologies include videoconferencing, the internet, store -and-forward imaging, streaming media, terrestrial and wireless communications. Telehealth could be as simple as two health professionals discussing a case over the telephone or as sophisticated as doing robotic surgery between facilities at different ends of the globe.

The temptation for informatics professionals and health care providers alike is to follow the technological imperative and to see the implementation of telehealth as merely a technical problem where any and all issues can be solved by developing technical fixes. Although this technology provides cost-effective and efficient services, there lies a danger that focusing mainly on pragmatic considerations will ignore profound ethical and legal issues that could interfere with its implementation [1-2].

2. Telehealth Challenges

The relationship between informed consent, the physician-patient relationship and electronic health records (EHRs) are important variables when dealing with the ethical and legal issues in telehealth service implementation. In fact, EHRs are central to the implementation of telehealth.

In the traditional model of the physician-patient relationship, the physician had control of the in...

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... teleadvice in the absence of a pre-existing patient-physician relationship - Systematic review and expert survey. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 2(1).

[2] Kluge, E. H. W. (2011). Ethical and legal challenges for health telematics in a global world: Telehealth and the technological imperative. International Journal of Medical Informatics, 80(2), e1-e5.

[3] Akabayashi, A., Slingsby, B. T. (2006). Informed consent revisited: Japan and the U.S. Am. J. Bioethics, 6 (1) 9–14.

[4] Oudshoorn, N. (2008) Diagnosis at a distance: the invisible work of patients and healthcare professionals in cardiac telemonitoring technology. Soc. Health Illness, 30 (2), 272–288.

[5] Bellazzi, R., Montani, S., Riva, A., Stefanelli, M. (2001) Web-based telemedicine systems for home-care: technical issues and experiences. Comput. Methods Prog. Biomed, 64 (3), 175–187

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