The proportion of elderly in society is growing rapidly, leading to increasing health care costs. New remote monitoring technologies are expected to lower these costs by reducing the number of close encounters with health care professionals, for example the number of visits to health care centres. In this paper, I discuss issues of priority setting raised by this expectation. As a starting-point, I analyse the recent debate on principles for priority setting in Sweden. The Swedish debate illustrates that developing an approach to priority setting is an ongoing process. On the basis of this analysis, I conclude that several different ethical principles, and specifications of these principles, can be appealed to for giving priority--over close encounters--to a large-scale introduction of remote monitoring technologies in health care services to elderly people, but also that many specifications can be appealed to against giving such priority. I propose that given the different views on principles, it is necessary to develop fair procedures of deliberation on these principles and their application, in particular in order to reach agreement on exactly how much resources should be allocated to remote monitoring and how much to close encounters. I also present a few points to consider in a large-scale introduction of remote monitoring.
All civilized societies favour ethical principles of equity. In healthcare, these principles generally focus on needs for medical care. Methods for establishing priorities among such needs are instrumental in this process. In this study, we analysed whether rules on access to healthcare, waiting-time guarantees, conflict with ethical principles of distributive justice.
We interviewed directors, managers and other decision-makers of various healthcare providers of hospitals, primary care organizations and purchasing offices. We also conducted focus group interviews with professionals from a number of distinct medical areas.
Our informants and their co-workers were reasonably familiar with the ethical platforms for priority-setting established by the Swedish parliament, giving the sickest patients complete priority. However, to satisfy the waiting-time guarantees, the informants often had to make priority decisions contrary to the ethical principles by favouring access before needs to keep waiting times within certain limits. The common opinion was that the waiting-time guarantee leads to crowding-out effects, overruling the ethical principles based on needs.
For more than a decade, the interpretation in Sweden of the equitable principle based on medical needs has been distorted through political decisions, leading to healthcare providers giving priority to access rather than needs for care.
Insite, a supervised injection facility in Vancouver, British Columbia, is an evidence-based response to the ongoing health and social crisis in the city's Downtown Eastside. It has been shown that Insite's services increase treatment referrals, mitigate the spread and impact of blood-borne diseases and prevent overdose deaths. One of the goals of this facility is to improve the health of those who use injection drugs. Nurses contribute to this goal by building trusting relationships with clients and delivering health services in a harm reduction setting. The authors describe nursing practice at Insite and its alignment with professional and ethical standards of registered nursing practice. Harm reduction is consistent with accepted standards for nursing practice as set out by the College of Registered Nurses of British Columbia and the Canadian Nurses Association and with World Health Organization guidelines.