Telemedicine: this isn’t a new concept for the world of information-age healthcare, but it’s becoming more popular among the clinical care providers. Working from a remote location sounds ideal. Being able to communicate to patients no matter where you are through video chats or videos sounds like a glimpse into the future, but how safe is it for you and your practice?
Skype™, one of the most popular forms of video chatting, offers a way for care providers to communicate with patients regardless of the conditions. A step above a voice call, Skype allows for communicating face-to-face with anyone you need. The face-to-face dynamic is ideal for patients when receiving healthcare service and feeling the comfort of seeing a face on the other end.
However, telemedicine via Skype does have a major downfall. Skype is not compliant with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA. What does this mean for you and your practice? It’s simple; the conversations you have with patients over Skype are not protected by HITECH or PHI. This puts you and your practice at risk for liability for not securing confidential patient information. Without HIPAA compliance, Skype is not a safe telemedicine application.
Google Helpouts™, a new feature that Google is introducing, will allow experts in their fields to post videos on the internet. The Helpouts also allow for one-on-one training through the computer. Experts can mentor individuals using Helpouts by giving step-by-step guidance. This new technology will be ideal for healthcare providers. For clinical purposes, therapists are able to give sessions no matter the location of either party. The idea behind the Helpouts is to benefit those who cannot afford regular sessions. Also, with the cost of $2 per session minute, patients can control how much medical assistance they can afford, and plan ahead.
The greatest benefit of the Google Helpouts vs. Skype is that Google Helpouts have been set up specifically for the medical field. All Google Helpouts are HIPAA compliant, meaning that all information passed through the system is protected. Because of this, your practice is safer from the potential legal ramifications of telemedicine. With the danger of losing confidential patient information greatly reduced, these videos are safe and convenient for both parties. Also, unlike Skype, Google checks out the medical experts offering advice on Helpouts. This means that each individual is run through a background check to make sure that their medical credentials are valid. With Skype, unless you already have the established patient-provider relationship, patients are not assured that the person they are speaking with is a certified practitioner. As telemedicine grows as a more common practice, stay safe and HIPAA compliant while advancing in this open market.