AMA Approves New Telemedicine Guidance for Ethical Practice of Health Care Professionals

Monday, July 11, 2016
By George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law

On June 13, 2016, the American Medical Association (AMA) implemented new guidance for the ethical practice of telemedicine.   These new guidelines are aimed to help physicians understand how their fundamental responsibilities may play out differently when patient interactions occur through telemedicine, compared to traditional patient interactions at a medical office or hospital.

New Ethical Guidelines for Telehealth and Telemedicine.

The new ethical guidance on telehealth and telemedicine was developed over the past three years by the AMA's Council on Ethics and Judicial Affairs. The use of telemedicine has been growing over the past decade, moving to include a broad range of specialties. The development of the new guidelines coincides with the growth and 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," said AMA Board Member Jack Resneck, M.D. "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."

Model For Care.

Patients, especially when using telemedicine, need to be able to trust that physicians will place patient welfare above other interests, provide adequate care, provide the information patients need to make well-considered decisions about care, respect patient privacy and confidentiality, and take steps needed to ensure continuity of care. According to the AMA’s press release, the guidelines for the ethical practice of telemedicine “permit physicians utilizing telehealth and telemedicine technology to exercise discretion in conducting a diagnostic evaluation and prescribing therapy, within certain safeguards.”        

The AMA guidelines for telemedicine counsel that physicians using telehealth should, among other things:

•    Inform patients regarding the limitations of the technology;
•    Advise patients on how to arrange for follow-up care;
•    Encourage patients to inform their primary physician when they’ve been treated via telehealth; and
•    Support policies and initiatives that promote access to telehealth or telemedicine services for all patients who could benefit from receiving care electronically.    

The AMA expects to publish the AMA ethical guidelines for telehealth soon.
To read the AMA press release in full, click here.

To learn more about telemedicine, click here to read one of my prior blogs.

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Grimm, Douglas. “AMA Adopts Ethical Guidelines for Telemedicine, Finally.” Lexology. (June 16, 2016). Web.

Mills, Robert. “AMA Adopts New Guidance for Ethical Practice in Telemedicine.” American Medical Association (AMA). (June 13, 2016). Web.

About the Author: George F. Indest III, J.D., M.P.A., LL.M., is Board Certified by The Florida Bar in Health Law. He is the President and Managing Partner of The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Ave., Altamonte Springs, FL 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

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“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
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