Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, in telemedicine have attracted significant attention due to the potential for improving access to healthcare in rural and underserved regions. There are ethical, legal, as well as financial issues that drones can have in telemedicine.
Privacy concerns: There are ethical implications to drones being used in telemedicine. Drones being used to gather personal information about patients may pose privacy issues. Therefore, it is essential to make sure that the appropriate precautions are taken in order to preserve patient privacy. The ethical issue of using drones for medical delivery raises questions regarding the priority of care and the access of the resources.
Legal implications: Telemedicine uses drones. The regulations regarding drone use vary by country. U.S. regulations regarding drone usage are regulated by the Federal Aviation Administration. Telemedicine providers also need to adhere to FAA regulations. Telemedicine providers are required to comply with all applicable laws regarding healthcare, including HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act), which safeguards patient privacy and security.
Financial consequences: Telemedicine using drones could have financial implications. Telemedicine providers need to ensure the costs of purchasing and maintaining drones are not prohibitive. Additional staff training may be required for drone use in Telemedicine.
These challenges aside, telemedicine can significantly increase access to healthcare in remote areas. Drones are able to be used for transporting medical samples or medical supplies in areas that have been affected by natural catastrophes. You can even use drones to offer teleconsultations to healthcare professionals.
Telemedicine using drones has ethical, legal, as well as financial consequences that need to be considered. With proper regulation and planning, drone use in telemedicine could significantly increase access to healthcare in rural and underserved regions.
References: Aguilar, J. D., Parra-Arnau, J., de la Hoz, E., & Alonso, J. B. (2018). Literature review on drones in healthcare: Telemedicine and e-Health, 24(11), 833-838. doi: 10.1089/tmj.2017.0305
Bates, M. J., & Bagley, S. C. (2020). Potential risks and ethical concerns in remote and/or telemedicine drone operation. American Journal of Bioethics, 20(3), 59-61. doi: 10.1080/15265161.2019.1705094