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AMA Releases Telehealth Ethical Guidelines

June 15, 2016
by Heather Landi
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The American Medical Association (AMA) adopted new ethical guidance to help clarify physicians’ fundamental ethical responsibilities when interacting with patients and providing care through telemedicine technologies and services.

The new guidance for ethical practice in telehealth and telemedicine, which AMA adopted at its Annual Meeting this week, was developed over the past three years by the AMA’s Council on Ethics and Judicial Affairs, and adopted by a vote of physicians from every corner of the country. According to the AMA, the development of the new guidelines coincides with innovations in technology that are changing the ways in which people live their lives, including reshaping the ways they engage with medicine. 

“Telehealth and telemedicine are another stage in the ongoing evolution of new models for the delivery of care and patient-physician interactions,” AMA board member Jack Resneck, M.D., said in a statement. “The new AMA ethical guidance notes that while new technologies and new models of care will continue to emerge, physicians’ fundamental ethical responsibilities do not change.”

“The evolution of telehealth and telemedicine capabilities offers increasingly sophisticated ways to conduct patient evaluations as technologies for obtaining patient information remotely continue to evolve and improve. The AMA guidelines permit physicians utilizing telehealth and telemedicine technology to exercise discretion in conducting a diagnostic evaluation and prescribing therapy, within certain safeguards,” the AMA stated in a press release.

“Physicians who provide clinical services through telemedicine must recognize the limitation of the relevant technologies and take appropriate steps to overcome those limitations,” Resneck said. “What matters is that physicians have access to the relevant information they need to make well-grounded recommendations for each patient.”

With the new guidelines, the AMA recognizes that a coordinated effort across the profession is necessary to achieve the promise and avoid the pitfalls of telemedicine.

“Active engagement should support ongoing refinement of telemedicine technologies and relevant standards, while also promoting initiatives that will help make needed technology more readily available to all patients who want to use telemedicine services,” the AMA press release stated.

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