The combined use of information and communication technology constantly creates possibilities for medicine. Not only is the provision of medical care now possible over long distances, but technology can also help to make medicine safer, more efficient and more convenient. The use of information and communication technology offers both patients and physicians greater opportunities to gain knowledge about treatment options. As information is more readily available, patients and physicians can thoroughly evaluate their options and make fully-informed decisions.Although the use of information technology itself does not bring new threats, it may severely aggravate problems concerning confidentiality and patient protection. While protecting health data was relatively simple in the past, the global accessibility of data today is a blessing and a threat at the same time. Illegal access to health records may be easier than before when they are not protected appropriately. Computer based communication may decrease the personal trust between a patient or a person seeking help or advice and the physician attending. There should always be a personal and direct contact between the physician and the patient before telemedicine is provided directly. However, a consultation over the internet may lower the threshold for those patients which otherwise would feel inhibited to seek medical help (e.g. patients with psychiatric ilnesses.)Technology offers great advantages to improve care, but it may also be abused to create a second level health care system to keep patients away from a direct patient/physician contact.The World Medical Association has been working on the issue of Information technology and communication since 1972. At that time, the WMA recommended against storing patient data on networked computers. In the nineties, a policy for telemedicine (the use of the technology in direct relation to patient care) was developed. In 2007 the WMA replaced the policy completely by a new Statement on the Ethics of Telemedicine.
WMA Current Policy
- Statement on the Ethics of Telemedicine, October 2007
- Declaration on Ethical Consideration Regarding Health Databases, October 2002