AMA Adopts Ethical Guidelines For Telemedicine

Updated: May 7

After two years of debate, the American Medical Association adopted a set of ethical guidelines it hopes physicians and the telemedicine industry will use to ensure safe and effective digital doctor-patient interactions.

The AMA’s annual policy-making House of Delegates Monday overwhelmingly approved adding guidelines on the ethical practice of telemedicine, also known as telehealth, to the national doctor group’s constitution and bylaws. The AMA, which had tabled the guidelines for more physician input at previous meetings, said ethical guidelines were needed now because telemedicine is “reshaping” the way doctors engage with their patients.

“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,” Dr. Jack Resneck, an AMA board member and dermatologist from San Rafael, Calif., said during the group’s meeting in Chicago.

Doctors are conducting more communications via patients via telehealth devices including tablets, smartphones and desktop computers.

AMA guidelines say physicians working with telemedicine vendors should, among other things:

  • inform users about the limitations of services provided

  • advise users how to arrange for follow-up care

  • encourage users to inform their primary care doctor when they engage online with a telehealth provider

  • advocate for policies and initiatives to promote access to telehealth/telemedicine services for all patients who could benefit from receiving care electronically