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Mind the gap please: ethical considerations in the transition of virtual consultations from crisis to usual care
  1. Tania Moerenhout
  1. Bioethics Centre, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
  1. Correspondence to Dr Tania Moerenhout, Bioethics Centre, University of Otago, Dunedin, Otago, New Zealand; tania.moerenhout{at}otago.ac.nz

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Although telepsychiatry consultations have been tried and tested for several years, at least in relatively limited numbers and settings, the current COVID-19 pandemic has caused an exponential increase in their application. Even as lockdown restrictions were lifted and a return to face-to-face consultations was (at least theoretically) possible, many practitioners and patients decided to uphold teleconsultations for some or a large part of their interactions. This was mostly driven by the exceptional circumstances of the pandemic, as ongoing safety concerns, the need for PPE use and uncertainty around whether face-to-face meetings could go ahead continued to form barriers to usual care practices. Frittgen and Haltaufderheide aptly hypothesise that extensive changes in online communication behaviour will also impact ethical aspects of the therapeutic relationship.1 After considering how the use of technology may affect the therapeutic relationship in video-based consultations, they provide an ethical analysis of this impact along four dimensions: respect for autonomy, lucidity, fidelity and humanity.1 In this commentary I will have a look at the difference between crisis standards of care and usual care, the need to consider specific patient needs in teleconsultation use, the importance of justice understood as equity and access to technology, and a major challenge ahead.

Throughout history, crisis situations have often been major catalysts of technological and other progress. Under challenging …

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Footnotes

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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