Videoconferencing in telemedicine is becoming pervasive as health care is becoming expensive. With the need for flexibility and mobility, more health-care organizations are looking at telemedicine to improve the delivery of health services and patient outcomes in an interactive manner.
Can you use your existing videoconference system such as Polycom CX5500 for your telemedicine sessions? If you are a private practitioner and intend to incorporate your current teleconferencing equipment into your system, this article will help jump-start your work.
Telemedicine and Teleconference
Telemedicine is one of the more practical innovations in the medical field. The accessibility and availability of videoconference platforms, laptops, and smartphones facilitate a myriad of medical services that would have required physical attendance and in-person visits for diagnosis and treatment.
For patients, they can take advantage of post-hospitalization care, chronic condition management, and follow-up consultation in the comfort of their homes. Psychiatric consulting is also done via telepsychiatry, another application of telemedicine. These “virtual” visits save them time, money, and effort (this last one being very important to the elderly and those with mobility issues).
Health-care providers, on their part, can look after their existing patients and expand their client base as more people discover the convenience and cost-effectiveness of live-video sessions. Indeed, telemedicine levels the playing field among small and big clinics. Medical staff and practitioners also use videoconferencing for training and meetings.
While these real-time interactive sessions are made easy for patients, health professionals have a configuration to do. This setup includes videoconferencing technology that should meet data confidentiality and more.
Compliance with HIPAA
While patients can use their personal devices for remote consultation, health providers are required by law to conduct any telemedicine session through HIPAA-compliant videoconferencing technologies.
The HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 and protects the privacy and security of a patient’s electronic protected health information or e-PHI.
Essentially, the HIPAA requires health-care professionals to consider their “technical, hardware, and software infrastructure” in coming up with security measures for the protection and confidentiality of the patient’s health information.
When looking for videoconference systems, look for HIPAA-compliance for telemedicine solutions.
Complete Encryption of Sensitive Patient Data
Point 1 leads to a cornerstone of personal health information and, in general, data privacy: does your videoconference technology encrypt electronic data?
While the HIPAA does not explicitly say anything about encryption of sensitive health records, the HITECH Act, or Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act of 2009, fills the gap and expands on the earlier provisions of the HIPAA.
The HITECH Act audits health organizations on how they use electronic health records (EHR) to keep these documents private from unauthorized people and secured from data breaches. This standard pretty much explains why Skype, FaceTime, and other consumer-grade video-calling services are out of the question.
Crisp and Clear Quality
Your communication platform should be able to deliver in terms of video and sound. As these live-video consults take the place of in-patient visits, the experience is expected to be smooth and seamless.
Both parties should be able to communicate, hear, and see each other clearly. It’s imperative that the quality of the video and sound is maintained despite fluctuations in the internet connection.
Capable and Upgradable
The nature of your clinic or practice is a vital consideration in configuring the telemedicine system that works for you and your patients.
Indeed, before anything else, your telecommunication platform should be able to facilitate real-time exchange of information. In the overall scheme of things, it should fit into your whole telemedicine infrastructure, including the peripheral medical devices.
You also have to pay attention to your system’s general compatibility with your clients’ devices, given the most commonly used software. It’s an ideal situation when your equipment is upgradable to embrace new technologies to save on replacement costs.
Speaking of upgrades, you may want your platform to be flexible for enhancements such as multiple live feeds and sharing of materials or even live chat. These features may improve your consultations and examinations.
That’s a tall order for incorporating videoconferencing into your day-to-day practice. But you can break down the task in finding the right equipment for telemedicine into these points:
- Security and privacy of your patients’ data, including encryption
- Capability for crystal-clear and crisp communication
- Compatibility with your current and future needs and your clients as well
You are fortunate if your videoconference station meets the above requirements, particularly the HIPAA regulations and data privacy protocol. Otherwise, you may have to spend more time researching online or contacting manufacturers regarding their products’ compatibility with telemedicine or telehealth, which is a similar albeit broader field.
Invest in a videoconferencing system for the telemedicine market that is expected to hit about US$60 million five years from now.