If you’re a healthcare provider, you’ve probably noticed the rise in popularity of telehealth services precipitated by the pandemic. While life is starting to slowly return to normal this year, telehealth still remains a very popular means of accessing healthcare. In fact, 34% of Americans who used telehealth services during the pandemic claim they would prefer a virtual visit over an in-person consultation.
To ensure patient retention, it’s important to do the best you can to accommodate the preferences of your patients. Offering HIPAA compliant video conferencing is a great way to provide flexibility to patients who may prefer a virtual care option for non-essential consultations.
In this article, we’ll explain HIPAA regulations in regard to video conferencing and provide helpful information on choosing the best telehealth platform. We’ll also show how you can use virtual care to increase patient engagement and retention.
HIPAA Regulations and Virtual Care
Before we delve into how to implement HIPAA compliant video conferencing in your practice, it’s important to understand how HIPAA rules apply to information collected and transmitted in a virtual care setting.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 established the national standard for patient privacy in the field of healthcare. The act consists of two regulations, the Privacy Rule and the Security Rule which directly apply to video conferencing.
- The Privacy Rule provides protections for personal health information (PHI). According to the privacy rule, PHI can’t be divulged without the patient’s knowledge and consent. This confidentiality protection applies to information transmitted orally, electronically, and on paper.
- The Security Rule focuses on putting in place safeguards to protect the transmission of electronic patient health information (ePHI) from unauthorized access. Typically, ePHI is stored on:
– Computer hard drives
– Cloud networks
– Removable digital memory devices
Healthcare information such as diagnoses, lab results, treatment information, and medical bills are all protected under HIPAA, as are individual identifiers such as patient names, birth dates, phone numbers, and addresses.
What is the Criteria for HIPAA Compliance?
In order for a video conferencing app to be considered HIPAA compliant, the platform has to meet several key technical requirements. According to compliancy-group.com, these requirements include:
With video conferencing, one of the most important considerations is ensuring that the confidentiality of data exchanged during a session is not compromised by unauthorized access. HIPAA rules recommend different levels of encryption for data “at rest” and “in transit”. You can read more about encryption recommendations here.
Secure Connection Verification
A peer-to-peer connection is preferable, connecting your device directly to your patient’s device. However, if the video connection gets routed through a server, HIPAA requires that there be verification measures in place to prevent routing to imposter servers. This ensures that the integrity of patient health information is protected.
Any individual or business that performs functions that involve accessing PHI on behalf of a healthcare provider must enter a Business Associate Agreement. A BAA stipulates that third parties will only use PHI in a secure and established manner. This involves making sure that adequate physical, administrative, and technical safeguards are implemented to protect patient data.
Providers of HIPAA compliant video conferencing should have password controls and host/security controls in place. Password controls require that passwords be of a certain length and contain special characters. Additional password controls call for passwords to be changed after a set amount of time and have measures in place to lock a user out after multiple incorrect entries. Host/security controls allow a healthcare provider to prevent entry into videoconference until the host arrives.
Are Video Conferencing Apps such as Zoom and Skype HIPAA Compliant?
If you’ve considered implementing telehealth in your practice, you’ve probably wondered if it’s safe to use video conferencing apps such as Skype or Zoom to communicate with patients.
While Zoom and Skype meet some of the requirements of HIPAA compliance, they don’t provide the features necessary for operating a fully functional virtual clinic.
How to Choose the Right Telehealth Platform
Popular video conferencing apps such as Zoom and Skype don’t have credit card payment portals, built-in appointment schedulers, digital patient intake forms, and they don’t support EHR integration. Without EHR integration, providers wouldn’t have access to a patient’s insurance information before scheduling them for an appointment, resulting in confusion and costly delays. It’s also likely that providers would need to enter the same information into a patient’s health records twice, which could lead to errors or duplicate entries.
Beam is a leading telehealth provider that has helped many providers set up virtual care clinics in as little as 24 hours. Beam’s system supports a full range of functionality including:
- EHR integration
- HD video resolution
- Appointment scheduling
- Co-pay collection
- Screen sharing
- Digital patient intake
How Can HIPAA Compliant Video Conferencing Increase Patient Retention?
Patient retention is vital to operating a successful and profitable healthcare practice. Throughout the patient journey, there are multiple touchpoints that determine how likely a patient is to keep receiving care from their current practice.
In a virtual care setting, these touchpoints are more clearly defined, offering providers an opportunity to increase patient engagement and retention.
The Waiting Room
Beam is more than a HIPAA compliant video conferencing platform. Beam provides an immersive virtual care experience where patients are engaged before they even connect with their providers. The Beam platform offers waiting rooms filled with custom content to educate and promote services to patients.
Beam requires no download or software installation for providers or patients. Our intuitively designed interface is easy to navigate and our tech support team is always on standby should patients or providers require assistance.
According to a recent survey, 79% of patients were found to be very satisfied with the care they received at their last virtual consultation. At the end of each session on the Beam platform, patients are prompted to rate their overall experience. This gives providers an opportunity to strengthen their online presence with more positive reviews from verified patients.
For more information on how Beam can help grow your practice and to schedule a demo, click here.