telehealth best practices

What Is the Difference Between Telehealth Best Practices and the Ethics of Telehealth?

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Amateurs practice until they get it right; professionals practice until they can’t get it wrong.

— George W. Loomis

The core of professionalism is to serve the client/patient respectfully,

  • In the absence of reprisal
  • With benevolence and pride in one’s work
  • Upholding the standards and reputation of one’s profession.

Difference Between Best Practices and Ethics?

Wikipedia offers a clear difference between best practices and ethics. One is a class within which the other is an example: 

A best practice is a method or technique that has been generally accepted as superior to other known alternatives because it often produces results that are superior to those achieved by other means or because it has become a standard way of doing things, e.g., a standard way of complying with legal or ethical requirements.

Professionals are taught a moral compass to navigate toward “best practices,” such as “ethical approaches,” to be honorable practitioners, and to exceed the standard of care. In telehealth, professionals try to protect their clients/patients from foreseeable vulnerabilities when using technology to communicate with us. Knowing how to protect those who rely on our judgment is a large part of what defines us as professionals.

Ethical practice is also good for the soul (in addition to the client or patient), if not immediately for the wallet. Reasonable measures to operate professionally set us apart from the burgeoning competition by self-appointed “healers.” As is often the case, behaving as a professional, taking the higher ground despite potentially hundreds and thousands of opportunities to take advantage of rather than protecting the vulnerable leads to desirable referrals who can see immediately when one has veered from the well-worn path of the ethical and the honorable.

Warnings

Healthcare professionals may or may not get warnings about providing telehealth or teletherapy services without first understanding what can go wrong, the risks to themselves and their patients, and how to avoid them by learning best practices.

The following are some of the tempting admonitions professionals might hear from questionable peers, now that most providers have been using technology at least since the start of COVID:

  • I’ve been using technology for telehealth for years now. Nothing terrible has happened.
  • Clients need us now more than ever. Almost anything is better than nothing.
  • I don’t know anyone who studied telehealth best practices. Everyone is just doing it; that’s good enough for me.
  • I feel good about the work I’ve done online without special training. What’s to learn?
  • The traditional healthcare models don’t apply online. The Internet is giving us a whole new way of working with people. 

Of course, an essential part of expertise is knowing when and how to maximize efficiency while improving outcomes. This ability develops slowly with experience. It is notably different from being reckless at a vulnerable client’s expense.

In reality, many people get away with speeding through red lights, stealing expensive tech from stores, pocketing silverware from restaurants, and stealing drugs from their friends’ homes. Professionals don’t do this. It’s usually not because of the probability of getting caught, although it might be for some people. Most healthcare providers don’t need threats, object lessons, or horror stories to make them stick to the strait and narrow. Though a few juicy stories about professionals caught in the jaws of the tort system, battling regulators, or coping with media attacks help to highlight dangers, most clinicians have enough training to stop when their intuition identifies dangerous ground.

Summary Statement

  • Worthwhile professionals have developed a keen “spidey sense” about ethical dilemmas — and stop as needed.
  • It’s often harder to do things ethically, but in the long run, one’s colleagues will notice and keep them supplied with referrals as needed.
Advanced Telehealth Legal Issues: Best Practices & Informed Consent

Telehealth best practices, including professional association practice guidelines, competencies, and informed consent.

Disclaimer: The Telebehavioral Health Institute (TBHI Telehealth.org) offers information as educational material designed to inform you of issues, products, or services potentially of interest. We cannot and do not accept liability for your decisions regarding any information offered. Please conduct your due diligence before taking action. Also, the views and opinions expressed are not intended to malign any organization, company, or individual. Product names, logos, brands, and other trademarks or images are the property of their respective trademark holders. There is no affiliation, sponsorship, or partnership suggested by using these brands unless contained in an ad. We do not and cannot offer legal, ethical, billing technical, medical, or therapeutic advice. Use of this site constitutes your agreement to TBHI Privacy Policy and Terms and Conditions.

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