Ethical Issues in Healthcare

Ethical Issues in Healthcare

High ethical standards are essential in healthcare. Four fundamental principles lay the foundation for healthcare ethics.

  • Autonomy honors patients’ right to make their own decisions.
  • Beneficence helps patients advance their own good.
  • Nonmaleficence does no harm to patients.
  • Justice ensures that patients are treated equally, fairly and impartially.

Current ethical issues in healthcare center on these guiding principles. Healthcare professionals must be prepared to navigate the following issues.

5 Ethical Issues in Healthcare

1.    Improving Access to Care

The Department of Health and Human Services identified access to healthcare as an objective for its Healthy People 2010 and Healthy People 2020 initiatives. In 2012, only 83.1 percent of people had medical insurance. The latest figures from the National Health Interview Survey show that 12.5 percent of adults under age 65 are uninsured. Improving access to care has been a central issue in healthcare for many years. This includes not just private insurance but also Medicare, Medicaid, military and other government health insurance plans.

2.    Protecting Patient Privacy and Confidentiality

Violating a patient’s privacy and confidentiality can have legal and ethical consequences for healthcare providers and professionals. Patients’ medical information is protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Topics like increases in data breaches and smartphone usage highlight the ongoing need to understand this ethical issue.

3.    Building and Maintaining a Strong Healthcare Workforce

“The U.S. has been dealing with a nursing deficit of varying degrees for decades, but today … this shortage is on the cusp of becoming a crisis, one with worrying implications for patients and health-care providers alike,” according to The Atlantic. An aging population, the rising prevalence of chronic disease and an aging nursing workforce are contributing to the shortage.

If healthcare providers are unable to develop and sustain a strong workforce, patient care will suffer, as the American Association of Colleges of Nursing notes. Yet, accomplishing this in the midst of a nursing shortage is difficult. Nurse retention strategies should become a central focus for all hospitals and healthcare institutions.

4.    Marketing Practices

As of 2016, the U.S. healthcare industry was spending almost $30 billion per year in marketing and advertising to consumers, according to The Journal of the American Medical Association. Yet some question the ethics of a healthcare provider spending so much to promote its services or even a specific medicine or technology (whether or not the maker is named). Examples of hospitals getting involved in commercial endorsements for pay have highlighted this issue even more.

An institution can have ethics committees review the facility’s marketing practices to help prevent any missteps. Healthcare professionals should consult with their employer before making testimonials.

5.    Care Quality vs. Efficiency

Balancing quality and safety with efficiency is a difficult challenge, which is amplified given the increasing pressure hospitals face to lower the cost of healthcare while improving quality. “It raises a real question about whether the right values are driving our focus in our healthcare system,” Cynda Hylton Rushton, PhD, RN, told AMN Healthcare Briefings. “Should efficiency be the driver?”

The Role of Nursing Leaders

Skilled and knowledgeable nursing leaders can oversee nursing staff members, helping and mentoring them along the way. More leadership in nursing is needed to achieve a higher quality of care and properly respond to major ethical issues.

Alvernia University’s online RN to BSN Completion Program helps nurses enhance their careers and pursue leadership positions. In a flexible and convenient online environment, the programs allow nurses to reach their goals while maintaining their current work and personal schedules.

How to Advocate for Patients Seeking Medical Cannabis

How to Advocate for Patients Seeking Medical Cannabis

The use of medical cannabis is becoming more widespread now that it’s legalized in 33 states and the District of Columbia. If you’re a nurse or doctor who can legally prescribe medical cannabis, teaching your patients about this treatment and how it works can bring them one step closer toward achieving better health and improving their medical conditions.

The following tips can help you advocate for patients who may be seeking medical cannabis.

Explain How Medical Cannabis Works

The cannabis (marijuana) plant contains more than 100 cannabinoids—each of which produces different effects depending on which receptors they bind to in the body and brain. THC and CBD are the most well-known cannabinoids when it comes to cannabis. THC offers therapeutic effects of reducing pain, nausea, and inflammation. CBD offers similar health benefits and more without producing a psychoactive high like THC.

When explaining to your patients how medical cannabis works, discuss the differences between different cannabinoid ratios and how that will affect their symptoms. If your patients are concerned about a psychoactive high, assure them that you can prescribe medical cannabis that can effectively improve their condition or symptoms without producing a psychoactive high. Recommend your patient discuss this concern with a licensed medical cannabis pharmacist for best results.

Talk About How Medical Cannabis Can Be Used

Medical cannabis can be smoked, vaporized, ingested, applied topically, or taken as a liquid extract. Each consumption method has a different onset time and depends on your patient’s tolerance level. Smoking or vaporizing medical cannabis produces near-immediate effects, while medical cannabis edibles can take up to 2 hours to start producing medical effects. Smoking cannabis is not medically recommended since this method burns off the majority of the therapeutic medical cannabinoids.

Talk to your patients about their options for using medical cannabis and about which method may be most ideal for them based on their personal preferences and medical condition.

Discuss Possible Drug Interactions

Medical cannabis is highly therapeutic when used on its own, but may cause unexpected adverse reactions when used with certain types of medications. When discussing medical cannabis with your patients, ask about the medications they’re currently using and help them stay safe by educating about possible drug interactions. Medications that may cause adverse reactions when used with medical cannabis include warfarin, pentobarbital, oxymorphone, and disulfiram. 

Want to learn more? Visit our new clinical cannabis channel

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