Promise and peril-defining ethical telehealth practice from the clinician and patient perspective: A qualitative study

Amanda Jane Keenan, George Tsourtos, Jennifer Tieman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)
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Objectives: We undertook a qualitative study to examine and compare the experience of ethical principles by telehealth practitioners and patients in relation to service delivery theory. The study was conducted prior to and during the recent global increase in the use of telehealth services due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Methods: We conducted semi-structured interviews with 20 telehealth practitioners and patients using constructionist grounded theory methods to collect and analyse data. Twenty-five axial coded data categories were then unified and aligned through selective coding with the Beauchamp and Childress (2013) framework of biomedical ethics. The groups were then compared. Results: Thirteen categories aligned to the ethical framework were identified for practitioners and 12 for patients. Variance existed between the groups. Practitioner results were non-maleficence 4/13 or (31%), beneficence 4/13 (31%), professional–patient relationships 3/12 (22%), autonomy 1/13 (8%) and justice 1/13 (8%). Patient data results were non-maleficence 4/12 (33%), professional–patient relationships 3/12 (33%), autonomy 2/12 (18%), beneficence 1/12 (8%) and justice 1/12 (8%). Conclusions: Ethical principles are experienced differently between telehealth practitioners and patients. These differences can impact the quality and safety of care. Practitioners feel telehealth provides better care overall than patients do. Patients felt telehealth may force a greater share of costs and burdens onto them and reduce equity. Both patients and practitioners felt telehealth can be more harmful than face-to-face service delivery when it creates new or increased risk of harms. Building sufficient trust and mutual understanding are equally important to patients as privacy and confidentiality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalDigital Health
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2022


  • clinician experience
  • ethical
  • ethics
  • experience
  • general
  • health ethics
  • patient experience
  • telecare
  • Telehealth
  • telemedicine


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