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Telemedicine: Medical, legal and ethical perspectives

Peter A. Clark, Kevin Capuzzi, Joseph Harrison

Med Sci Monit 2010; 16(12): RA261-272

ID: 881286


Technological innovations in medical care have led to the development of telemedicine programs in both rural and urban environments. The necessity for telemedicine has increased immensely as more cost-effective treatment options have become available for both patients and physicians through the addition of telecommunication technologies to medical practice. The development of telemedicine systems began as a means of providing access to health care resources for individuals living in isolated rural areas, grew into advanced medical intervention techniques for soldiers on the battlefield, and have become prevalent in urban medical centers both as a resource to the underserved populations and as a platform for physicians off-site to conduct patient consults remotely. Urban telemedicine systems, as monitored in the Mercy Health System (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) and AtlantiCare Regional Medical Center (Atlantic City, New Jersey), display the enormous benefits of telemedicine as a form of preliminary analysis of patients for the treatment of various medical conditions including chronic disease, mental health disorders and stroke. However, the initiation of telemedicine programs requires new protocols and safeguards to be initiated to protect patient confidentiality/privacy, ensure the appropriate licensure of physicians practicing across state borders, and educate patients on the use of new technological systems. Telemedicine represents the progression of medicine in the presence of improving communication technologies and should be instituted in all urban medical centers. This conclusion is based upon the ethical responsibility to treat all persons with dignity and respect, which in this case, mandates the provision of the most cost-effective, beneficial medical care for all populations.

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