2001 videocall Here's a question from our free study guide. (You receive the study guide when you create an account--no purchase necessary!) It goes something--exactly--like this:

A social worker provides services at a rural health care facility. The physicians in the practice are starting to do some telemedicine work. The physicians approach the social worker about treating people who may not be able to travel to the health center regularly. How should the social worker respond?'

❏ Begin incorporating telemedicine along the same lines as face-to-face services.

❏ Inform the physicians that telemedicine does not tend to be an effective means of doing social work, since it presents difficulties in establishing a therapeutic relationship.

❏ Tell the physicians that confidentiality concerns make telemedicine unethical for social workers.

❏ Discuss the need for informed consent to warn patients of possible limitations of telemedicine versus face-to-face contact.


What's your answer?


Let's take the answers one at a time.

A: There are differences between face-to-face services and telemedicine, and clients should be made aware of them before beginning telemedicine sessions.

B: Telemedicine may not work for everyone, but it can be an effective treatment method for many people.

C: It is ethical for social workers to conduct sessions remotely, which may open doors to people who don't have easy access to services in person.

D: It's appropriate to discuss with the doctors the possible limitations of telemedicine, and to review how informed consent would explain these limitations to clients.

So you have your answer (it's D).

Social workers can conduct therapy over the phone or via the internet, but clients must be informed of the possible limitations of doing such work. Working remotely may impact the therapeutic relationship, confidentiality issues may arise, and third party payers may not reimburse for treatment.

The most recent version of the Social Work Code of Ethics has new language regarding telemedicine and other interactions of technology and social work. Rereading the code is a great way to study. Then take full-length practice tests to see how well the info has stuck.

Happy studying!

December 11, 2019
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