Doctors reminded of ethics during virtual consultations

Virtual consultations, carried out remotely through devices with cameras, have been on the rise since the Covid-19 outbreak in Malaysia. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: The Malaysian Medical Council (MMC) today reminded physicians that the practice of virtual consultations does not alter the ethical, professional and legal requirements in the provision of healthcare.

Virtual consultations – a medical service provided remotely through devices with cameras – has been on the rise since the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country, with the health ministry launching its own such service called DoctorOnCall on Feb 19.

Local private healthcare providers have also started implementing virtual consultation programmes of their own, with IHH Healthcare making the practice available in all its 15 Pantai and Gleneagles hospitals in Malaysia on May 13.

At an online forum today, MMC’s director of the Legal and Ethics Department, Dr Faizi Rosli, said doctors carrying out virtual consultations should make sure the suitability, limitations and privacy issues related to the practice are explained to the patient.

“In providing medical care using telecommunications technologies, physicians are advised that they must possess adequate training and competency to manage patients through telemedicine,” he said.

“They should also ensure that the identities of all other participants involved in the telemedicine encounter are disclosed to and approved by the patient, and documented in the patient record.”

Faizi said the physician’s identity, place of practice and registration status should always be made known to the patient.

They should also ensure that they, and the patient, are using appropriate technology that complies with legal requirements regarding privacy, security and accreditation standards.

He also said the physician must consider whether the medium affords adequate assessment of the problem, and if it does not, arrange for a timely in-person assessment.

Physicians have to ensure patients have continued access to their medical records, he said, which should also be made available to other healthcare professionals for the provision of ongoing patient care.

The online forum was organised by Digital Health Malaysia, an organisation that promotes the establishment of a digital healthcare ecosystem in the country.

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