GIS Gives Telepractice Boost

The Group of Seven Highly Industrialized Nations (G7) and the European Commission (EC) of the European Union (EU) are working together to define worldwide telecommunications standards and to ensure their implementation. The EC has the lead on construction of a functional Global Information Society (GIS) that uses new, more affordable technologies in an information

exchange network intended to serve all world inhabitants. These are ambitious initiatives that face strong challenges in the currently uneven distribution of technology in the world and in the equally uneven way in which the available technology is used. These are also initiatives that have implications for the growth of global telepractice. Telepractice, or the use of various technological tools by professionals to deliver their services over long distances, is still in its infancy. It holds promise to help ensure quality in both health and nonhealth professions by providing ongoing education and global access to services such as those provided by accountancy, architecture, and engineering, as well as the health professions and their various specialties. The diversity of telepractice activities continues to grow both within and outside professional licensing systems, despite implementation and cultural barriers.

Not everyone is enthusiastic about the prospect of telepractice. CLEAR's Telepractice and Professional Licensing: A Guide for Legislators points out that medical telepractice "detractors argue that telepractice could reduce the quality of care by eliminating face-to-face contact, jeopardize the security of medical information, and increase the risk of fraud and malpractice liability." There are also questions surrounding professionaldiscipline and telemalpractice? Where does a patient seek redress for an unsatisfactory encounter with a telepractitioner in another country? Is there a place for global mutual credentials recognition such as that negotiated among the member countries of the European union? Sound far-fetched?

If the combined resources and determination of the world's countries can make it happen, a mature global information society will be in place before too many years pass. Because of its implications for the way professional services are currently regulated by jurisdiction, state and provincial policymakers will keep an eye on the GIS as it develops.

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