Fundamentals of Ethical Practice
According to the publication Fundamentals of Ethical Practice 2004, there are a number of ethical considerations when it comes to documenting and communicating patient information online. The main ethical implication of patient-clinician messaging includes security and privacy considerations. Patient confidentiality is threatened if there is no secure internet platform to communicate the personal health information of a patient. Establishing a secured web messaging site for patients and clinicians reduces the risk of using super encryption, which is usually needed for traditional email.
Moreover, online communication could create greater threats, depending of the kind of relationship shared between the patient and clinician. National Ethics Committee of the Veteran Health Administration 2004 affirms that the quality of care exhibited through this type of communication is important, as it ensures patient confidentiality. Therefore, another implication arises when there is an imbalance access to clinically approved care for those unable to use the internet. Hence, each clinician is required to take precautions and ensure that each of his/her patients receives equal care just like those using online communications.
Thirdly, there is an increased concern, whereby some practitioners feel that this kind of messaging tends to get in the way of the interpersonal relationship between physicians and patients. This is because the relationship established between patients and clinicians is relevant to the provision of quality healthcare. However, patient-clinician messaging does not seek to replace face to face visits but acts as a supplement to regular visits and save on cost. Consequently it is vital to provide patients with adequate explanations on how the online messaging process44 works. This will ensure that patients are able to make informed decisions on whether to use this mode of communication.
Additionally, it is important that an established limit is set prior to the utilization of online communication. A clear parameter will be used to identify whether it is appropriate to discuss the subject matter using this messaging service. Notably, there are specific types of patient-clinician interactions that need to be done in person. For instance, delivering an unexpected diagnosis or conducting a physical exam is appropriate when done in person as opposed to electronically (National Ethics Committee of the Veteran Health Administration, 2004).
In conclusion, it is noted that healthcare institutions need to conduct effective courses and provide resources that will assist both clinicians and patients when using online communications. This strategic step will ensure that both parties are able to comply with the ethical restrictions and values of online clinician-patient messaging.
National Ethics Committee of the Veteran Health Administration (2004). FUNDAMENTALS OF ETHICAL PRACTICE. Praeger Publishers.