Telehealth: Promise or Peril?
July 30, 2003
in response to Window of Opportunity for Home Care Nurses: Telehealth Technologies by Holly Russo, MSN, RN (September 30, 2001)
I have just finished reading the article titled "Window of Opportunity for Home Care Nurses: Telehealth Technologies." Thank you for this article describing telehealth uses and related nursing issues. This article pointed out to me the need for nurses to learn about these new technologies and to develop renewed concern for the importance of maintaining patient confidentiality.
Technology is changing the nursing profession. By providing more tools in the toolbox, technology allows for more choices and greater access to care. The strength and promise of telehealth lie in providing increased access to health care services by augmenting existing services, not replacing them. Nurses need to be aware of the many ways telehealth can assist in providing care so they can determine how telehealth can best be applied to a given patient. Only if nurses know about the availability of these electronic technologies, can they be used to provide better care.
Electronic technologies can also provide greater access to educational opportunities. These educational technologies are readily available today. However, if nurses who can benefit from these technologies are unaware of their existence, or do not have the training, support, or access to make full use of these resources, then the potential benefit to enhance their knowledge is of little value.
Other changes in nursing include the growth of information systems and the involvement of third parties in decision making. Such changes have created new issues regarding confidentiality. The use of electronically stored and transferred information is expected to continue and increase in the health care field, thus making the need for security measures and regulations even more important. The ANA Code of Ethics for Nurses (2001) states, "The nurse safeguards the patient's right to privacy. The need for health care does not justify unwanted intrusion into the patient's life. The nurse advocates for an environment that provides for sufficient physical privacy, including auditory privacy for discussions of a personal nature and policies and practices that protect the confidentiality of information" (p. 12). It is imperative that all nurses understand the policies regulating the protection of patient's electronically stored information in order to maintain the privacy of the patients today and in the future.
Hoda A. Elebiary, BSN, MSN, PhD candidate
College of Nursing and Health Science
George Mason University
Assistant Lecturer of Community Health Nursing
College of Nursing, Tanta University, Egypt