Female doctor listens to back of preteen girl patient to check her lungs, breathing and heartbeat. Doctor listens with stethoscope to African American teenage girl sitting on examination couch.

Hastings Center Report

The Moral Difference between Faces and FaceTime

Abstract: Although the technology for telemedicine existed before the Covid-19 pandemic, the need to provide medical services while minimizing the risk of contagion has encouraged its more widespread use. I argue that, although telemedicine can be useful in certain situations, physicians should not consider it an adequate substitute for the office visit. I first provide a narrative account of the experience of telemedicine. I then draw on philosophical critiques of technology to examine how telemedicine has epistemic and ethical effects that make some of the goods of medicine unavailable. Telemedicine rules out an embodied encounter between physician and patient, in which the sense of touch has special importance. The individualized attention facilitated by the in-person visit may better sustain a caring physician-patient relationship. Physicians should criticize attempts by administrators, insurers, or other parties to incentivize the wholesale replacement of traditional office visits with telemedicine.

Read the Article