Making ethical decisions and following good morals is a key part in implementing Telehealth successfully into healthcare. The use of telehealth raises many ethical concerns. It is important to keep in mind that the goal of using telehealth services is to increase access to quality, and cost effective care. In order to individualize care through telehealth, applications should be tailored to its users. A telehealth application with an abundance of text may be ideal for someone who best learns from reading. On the contrary, an auditory learner may find this type of application overwhelming. This ethical challenge may be the reason an individual decides not to seek telehealth services. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind that patients who access telehealth services may be of a wide range of learning styles and ages. Designing applications that have options for all learning styles would be a very beneficial strategy for the success of telehealth applications. The ability to simplify applications would also be useful for the older population. Additionally, marketing through the use of flyers and other techniques to inform patients about individualizing applications can lead to the spread of telehealth use.
Creation of Telehealth Applications and Services
Another ethical concern in telehealth business stems from all of the different groups of people involved in creating telehealth applications and the intentions they hold. Bioengineers, computer experts, software technicians, web programmers, insurance providers, physicians, and nurses are all involved in creating and using new technologies in telehealth. The issue with this is the different levels of knowledge on the goals of telehealth, its population, and how it should best be used. Computer experts who help create telehealth applications, most likely have very limited nursing knowledge. When developing applications, a computer expert would focus on making the application function as best as it can. Nurses and physicians would have more insight into what telehealth applications should be used for. This can cause ethical discrepancies among the disciplines involved. During the creation of telehealth applications, ethical decisions must be made based on the fact that telehealth is viewed differently among various populations. The overall goal, however, is the same for each population. With growing access to electronic medical records and health services, patients are receiving quality, cost effective, individualized care.
Insurance, Privacy, and Code of Ethics
There are also ethical concerns when discussing the topic of telehealth with insurance companies and assistive technologies. Assistive technology is any device, software, or equipment that helps people work around challenges so they can learn, communicate, and function better (Martin, 2019). While these assistive technologies have the ability to greatly improve the daily lives of many people, several assistive technologies are not covered by insurance. Some examples of these typical technologies include adjustable height workstations, wheelchairs, and prosthetics. Many insurance companies believe that some assistive technologies are used for cosmetic purposes and are not necessary. However, if the insurance companies were to apply ethical concepts they would understand that assistive technologies have the ability to change lives. (Radu, 2017). Another ethical concern in the telehealth business is the threat of exposing patient privacy. Telehealth technologies such as monitoring devices have access to patients and their homes. Due to the fact that information can be accessed through various devices, there is a high risk of security breaches. This bad experience may cause patients to be reluctant when using telehealth services in the future (Maheta, 2014). Those who are monitoring the patients have an ethical responsibility to use that access for the sole purpose of helping the patient. Lastly, the code of ethics have to be an integral part of any telehealth application. These include integrity, objectivity, professional competence and due care, confidentiality, and professional behavior.
Maintaining the Patient-Provider Relationship
The patient-provider relationship is one of the most important things to uphold when providing clinical care. Building a relationship on trust and getting to know one another can greatly benefit the experience for a patient and their provider (Mehta, 2014). Although telehealth services do not involve in person visits, this relationship should still be maintained. This is certainly an ethical concern for the implication of telehealth. If patients and providers feel as though they are not building the same relationships they would in a face to face setting, telehealth business will be short lived.
Future Ethical Practice
Applying ethics and good morals when making decisions about the use of telehealth is crucial. This is not only important for people who hold healthcare roles. Anyone involved in the Telehealth business is a key aspect in determining the future of telehealth. If created on solid, ethical grounds, Telehealth has the potential to greatly benefit the health and well-being of its patients. In order to maintain the ethical standards in future practice, it is important to ask the right questions. When immersing oneself into Telehealth practice, questioning the goal or objective of a telehealth service can lead to future improvements, and better patient outcomes.