Making sure that the solution is secure is one of the biggest, and most-warranted, considerations when selecting a telehealth solution. Patient privacy is of utmost importance and organizations can’t risk a breach that would put their patient’s data at risk or result in large fines. Keeping telehealth HIPAA compliant isn’t difficult when you partner with the right platform that will not only provide the tools but also help educate your patients on how to protect their own information.
Here are 5 things you can do to stay HIPAA compliant while still providing an ideal telemedicine experience.
1. Pick the Right Location
HIPAA compliance goes beyond the actual technology and also affects the provider’s surroundings during the visit. Providers must select a secure and quiet location where the only people who can see or hear the visit are people who are directly related to care. This means that offices in homes must be private and that sessions done from unfamiliar locations must also be secure. Often, telehealth visits are provided on the fly due to urgent complaints or last-minute needs from patients. Even in those situations, the provider must find a location where the patient cannot be overheard by those not involved in their care.
2. Secure the Patient Environment
It is highly recommended that the patient is in a private location where there are no uninvited individuals who can overhear. The burden of ensuring that patients are in a secure location actually falls on the patient, and not the provider. The patient is responsible to secure their own safe space for distance treatment under HIPAA.
That said, many providers take the extra step, and they will have patients shows them the room that they’re in, identify anyone who shares the space with them, provide an address for where they are currently located to match it with the address on file, and even discontinue the session if they’re not comfortable with the security. These procedures vary considerably by the provider, and there are no clear-cut rules in HIPAA regulations that advise how to address these concerns. Limiting visits based on privacy concerns is an internal protocol for each practice.
3. Give Proper Instruction (At A Distance)
By working with a platform that notifies and shares best practices with patients, patients can be educated before beginning the session and reduce the burden on the provider to verify the patient’s location. Notifications that are sent out in advance of the appointment should encourage pre-visit routines like preparing necessary information, testing connection speed and securing the environment. Users should have an understanding of what is considered acceptable for the visit, and the notifications should be customizable to include any pertinent information for this specific connection attempt. The instructions for a behavioral health visit may be different than a well visit, and the customization of the notifications that go out gives providers an opportunity to ensure that their patients have this information without delay.
4. Utilize Proper Security Protocols
Most of the work to ensure HIPAA compliance should be done by the platform that you’re using. The connection should be encrypted and the platform secure. Beyond that, providers have a responsibility to ensure that their own location is secure, and many choose to develop patient security protocols as well. The burden of ensuring HIPAA compliance is not as complicated as it can seem. As long as no one aside from the healthcare provider and the treatment team has access to the patient’s information, you have done most of the work.
5. Don’t Sacrifice on Video Connection
The platform itself must encrypt the transmission of the video feed, but it can’t sacrifice connection strength to do it. By working with a platform that can provide a consistent connection with low bandwidth requirements, it is possible to get a HIPAA compliant platform that is easy to use even on mobile data.