Telemedicine – Practice Review of the Current Ethical and Legal Challenges

CPD Hours: 1
Current as at 03 February 2022
Telemedicine is the rapid access to shared and remote medical expertise by means of telecommunication and information technologies, no matter where the patient or relevant information is located.

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Course Content

Telemedicine is the rapid access to shared and remote medical expertise by means of telecommunication and information technologies, no matter where the patient or relevant information is located.

Though many nuanced definitions exist, the common themes include the use of technology, the existence of distance between two parties, and the delivery of health care. Telemedicine is an emerging strategy for healthcare delivery that has the potential to expand access, optimize efficiency, minimize cost, and enhance patient satisfaction; it focused on the remote provision of clinical services that have historically been delivered face-to-face.

Telehealth services have the potential to improve access to care, especially in rural or urban areas with scarce health care resources, and has demonstrated benefits for patients by improving the continuity of care, access to specialty care, and health outcomes.

Telemedicine is not a new concept, in the early 1900’s, a Dutch physiologist developed the first electrocardiograph and transmitted it via telegraph in 1906. As the technology advanced, so did the applications of telemedicine. Norwegian physicians in the 1920’s used radios to advise sick crewmembers on ships on how to manage healthcare.

The Australian Royal Flying Doctor service provided consultations using Morse code and voice radio in 1928. Dr Michael DeBakey used videoconferencing to display an open-heart aortic valve replacement being performed at the Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas to physicians in Geneva via satellite in 1962. In 1967, Bird and colleagues used audio-visual microwave circuits to consult and evaluate more than 1000 patients in Logan Airport from their location in Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. These early breakthroughs were the birth of telemedicine, but widespread application, to a myriad of situations and circumstances, in various forms, emerged from infancy over the last decade with rapid advances in audio, video, and wireless technology.

Learning Outcomes

In this session, you will:

  • Understand the variety of uses of telemedicine
  • Discuss the challenges related to provision of medical services through telemedicine
  • Review the current ethical and legal challenges related to telemedicine
  • Learn the topics actively prompting ongoing discussions in the scientific literature on telehealth
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