Posted: May 11, 2020
Organizations and individuals around the world are struggling to figure out how to stay connected throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. For healthcare providers and patients, staying connected while observing social distancing creates unique challenges. While both patients and healthcare providers understand the need for accessible healthcare during this difficult time, seeing patients in person isn’t always possible or the best option.
In order to protect the health of doctors and their patients, an increasing number of healthcare providers have turned to telehealth solutions. Telehealth makes it possible for healthcare providers to evaluate, diagnose, and treat patients using variety of messaging and telecommunications technology. In many cases, telehealth completely eliminates the need for in-person appointments.
Telehealth reduces much of the pressure placed on emergency rooms and medical clinics. Through a secure telehealth platform, people suffering from ailments not related to COVID-19 can access care without having to physically enter a medical facility. Even patients who believe they might have contracted the virus can get evaluated without putting medical facility staff or other patients at risk. Of course, patients suffering from severe symptoms such as shortness of breath or chest pain should seek immediate in-person treatment.
In addition to providing much needed medical care, telehealth enables behavioral health specialists to provide psychosocial support and mental health screenings during this time. This is extremely important as fear and anxiety about the COVID-19 virus can cause very strong emotions in both adults and children. Although everyone responds differently to stressful situations, certain populations may find it difficult to cope when dealing with the stress of a crisis.
The HIPAA Security Rule (SR) deals with electronic Protected Health Information or ePHI. Although many medical professionals mistakenly believe it’s acceptable to communicate ePHI when communication is directly between patient and provider, providers need to consider the channel of communication they’re using as well.
Recently, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR), announced that they will not impose penalties on healthcare providers providing services through video chat applications such as Skype, Google Hangouts, and Apple FaceTime despite noncompliance with HIPAA rules. It’s important to note that the OCR strongly encourages providers to notify patients of the potential privacy risks when using these third-party applications.
Despite the OCR’s temporary lift on HIPAA-compliance regulations regarding telehealth services, most healthcare providers understand the importance of ensuring the continued protection, safety, and comfort of their clients. Using a noncompliant telecommunication platform to conduct appointments and evaluations puts the privacy, security, and integrity of protected health information at risk. It’s crucial that healthcare providers take all necessary precautions to protect patient health information.
In order to remain HIPAA-compliant, telehealth solutions must include proven security features designed to protect patient privacy. Security features include end-to-end encryption using the industry-standard SSL/TLS protocol and Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) 256. It’s important to note that encryption must take place at all times, not just during video conference calls. Healthcare providers must ensure the encryption of all electronically exchanged PHI.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, healthcare professionals must ensure they continue to provide a relaxing, comfortable, and safe experience for their clients. Utilizing a HIPAA-compliant telehealth platform like Let’s Talk Interactive ensures providers can continue to provide their clients with exceptional care, without putting Protected Health Information at risk. This increases client satisfaction and security, ensuring optimal comfort for everyone involved.
Please contact us for more information about Let’s Talk Interactive’s telehealth solutions.