Last Updated | September 5, 2023
Executive Summary – Telemedicine HIPAA Compliance
Telemedicine has benefitted the field of healthcare providing contact-free communication between the patient and the healthcare professional. But with this technological advancement comes the responsibility of making sure that the communication between the two parties remains confidential. This article explains the need for Telemedicine HIPAA compliance to secure patients’ information.
Overview – Telemedicine HIPAA Compliance
For healthcare organizations to ensure that they are fulfilling all rules and regulations laid out in the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules, they must have a Telemedicine HIPAA compliance plan to be followed.
Telemedicine benefits every healthcare professional and patient likewise and has made it very easy for the two to interact without physical contact or the need to go to any hospital or clinic. Although the Telemedicine app cost is somewhat between $40,000 to $55,000, and developing a Telemedicine app can be a bit challenging but such apps have proved to be very useful for healthcare professionals.
Many healthcare professionals believe that passing on the ePHI (Protected Health Information) is safe if the communication is between the physician himself and the patient and this is where Telemedicine and HIPAA compliance need to be linked together, especially when considering how to start a telemedicine practice.
How to make sure that your Telemedicine services are HIPAA compliant?
Certain ways can be implied to make sure that your Telemedicine services are HIPAA compliant. A few of them are mentioned below:
- One way to ensure Telemedicine HIPAA compliance is to ensure the encryption of all web forms.
- Securing the healthcare website using an SSL certificate can also be considered to make your website HIPAA compliant for Telemedicine providers.
- Assuring that third-party service providers make a HIPAA business associate agreement (BAA) with a Telemedicine software development company also paves the way to HIPAA compliance Telemedicine.
- Securing the location of data and the servers, and using secure user authentication can also help to make sure that your Telemedicine services are HIPAA compliant.
Why is HIPAA compliance important for Telemedicine providers to protect patient privacy?
Everything is getting digital these days but it also means data theft. Data theft poses a serious threat to online businesses and privacy. The purpose of HIPAA-compliant telehealth is to ensure that patient information remains highly confidential and secure in the hands of HIPAA-trained healthcare professionals.
Telemedicine HIPAA compliance allows patients to ask for their medical information whenever they want to.
Tips for setting up a secure and compliant Telemedicine system
To ensure that your system is compliant with HIPAA you can take the following steps:
Ensure Secure Connection
A secure connection between a physician and a patient is one of the key factors to ensure Telemedicine HIPAA compliance. Be it messaging, voice chat, or video chat, everything needs to be secure. Third parties like Zoom, e-mail apps, or Skype do not provide Telemedicine HIPAA compliance so it is best to avoid such apps to develop a connection between a physician and a patient.
It is important to give access to PHI only to authorized people. Keep patients’ information highly protected and confidential and never pass it on to another physician or any other person without the consent of the patient.
Usually, people forget to log off their desktops. This can lead to the misuse of information by anyone. Therefore, automatic logging off after a period of inactivity for some time can enhance data security and prevent its misuse.
Appoint someone with good IT expertise
To ensure the protection of patients’ data, appoint someone who has expertise in IT because they will be able to monitor everything in a much more productive and effective way. It is very important because the administration already has a lot of responsibilities and might not be able to effectively manage all the data.
The benefits of using a HIPAA-compliant Telemedicine platform
Combining Telemedicine and HIPAA compliance software and incorporating it into the healthcare system will provide numerous benefits in the process. A few HIPAA-compliant Telemedicine benefits are mentioned below:
- One of the most significant advantages of Telemedicine HIPAA compliance is that it ensures a patient’s trust in the healthcare organization. This way, patients will achieve a sense of safety and peace of mind knowing that their personal medical information is perfectly safe and secure with that institution.
- Another benefit of adhering to Telemedicine HIPAA compliance programs in Telemedicine is that organizations will not have to endure any sort of penalties because not adhering to the set standard can lead to fines, and lawsuits imposing a huge threat to the financial stability of the organization in some cases.
Best practices for ensuring HIPAA compliance with your Telemedicine platform
Here are some best practices for you to follow so you can ensure Telemedicine HIPAA compliance.
- Download or store PHI on an unsecured mobile device
Telemedicine mobile apps are very convenient but you need to use strong passwords for your device. Make sure you establish a process for reviewing data stored on that device before throwing it away.
Install a remote wipe feature on your device so that in cases where your device might be stolen or get lost, your data immediately erases and there is nothing left on the device for anyone to misuse.
- Make sure that your Telemedicine staff is HIPAA trained
There are always new challenges and new workflows for employers and staff likewise. Without proper training of staff, it would be very risky for you to step into Telemedicine.
- Use a Secure way to communicate with patients
Communicating with patients has become very easy all thanks to Telemedicine. Physicians can have easy access to all their patients and engage effectively with them. And same goes for the patients as well. Communication through text or email is not a safe option to go for because using such means to communicate means you are sharing PHI without any security. Make sure that the information is protected with encryption and is secure.
- Make sure you share the updated notice of privacy practices with patients.
Patients need to be informed about the ways you are opting for in order to protect their PHI. Make sure you update the Notice of Privacy Practices which covers your Telemedicine program and platform. Do not forget to share it with patients.
How can Telemedicine providers ensure that they are compliant with HIPAA?
Telemedicine providers must ensure that their platforms have the following features to be compliant with HIPAA requirements.
- Make sure only authorized people have access to ePHI.
- Confirm the identity of users who request access to confidential data of the patients.
- Ensure secure, encrypted communications between the physician and the patients.
- Monitor communications that contain ePHI.
How can patients be sure that their information is protected when using Telemedicine services?
A patient can be sure that his information is protected on a Telemedicine app by confirming through the Telemedicine app itself. The confirmation usually comes in the form of an authenticator app or a code sent to a user’s mobile phone. Multi-factor authentication should form a key part of your telehealth security measures and such measures help you the patients to be sure that their information is safe and secure.
To sum up, the digitization of data and businesses has guaranteed easy access to everything in today’s world, but at the same time hospitalization has led to cyber theft and exploitation of sensitive data as well. But with the implementation of Telemedicine HIPAA compliance, sharing data on such platforms has become a lot easier and more secure.