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Technology for Telehealth

Here are some short-term and longer-term solutions you can use in your practice to conduct telehealth with your patients.

HIPAA-Compliant Technology Options 

A number of vendors supply HIPAA-compliant video communication products. These include:

Skype for Business, Updox, VSee, Zoom for Healthcare, Doxy.me, and Google G Suite Hangouts Meet.

Temporary Options for Video Visits (Non-HIPAA-compliant)  

During the current COVID-19 public health emergency, CMS is not enforcing the requirement that the technology used for a video visit between a physician and a patient be HIPAA-compliant. This allows physicians to use commonly available video chat solutions such as Apple FaceTime, Skype, or Facebook Messenger video chat.

Privacy and Security Disclaimer

Physicians are encouraged to notify patients that these third-party applications potentially introduce privacy risks, and physicians should enable all available encryption and privacy modes when using such applications.

While providing access to these tools to help address the COVID-19 public health emergency is useful in expanding access, there have been reports of security breaches that may add complications after the public health emergency is over.  

Public-facing video and messaging products and applications should NOT be used. Examples include: Facebook Live, Twitch, and TikTok

NOTE: Federal enforcement discretion will likely not impact individual states’ laws and regulations regarding protection and security of health information.

Additional information from OCR can be found here, including further flexibilities available, as well as obligations that remain in effect under HIPAA as physicians respond to crises or emergencies.

For a summary of telehealth waivers and flexibilities, click here.

Informed Consent for Telehealth:  Although it is not always required, it is important that patients understand the risks and benefits of using telehealth.  AHRQ has a simple, customizable consent form and how-to guidance for clinicians on how to explain telehealth.  Document verbal consent prior to each telehealth visit until you can receive a signed consent (either digitally or on paper) from the patient. 

EHR Solutions 

Check with your EHR vendor for options. Many vendors have telehealth capabilities built in; others require an interface with an external/freestanding product. Some vendor solutions may be more complicated to implement.

Background and Guidance on Selection of Technology

Please read the chapter “Systems of Delivery” in the ACP Telemedicine online course for more information on choosing a platform.

Evaluation of Leading Telemedicine Vendors

Forrester Research, a leading global research and advisory firm, has evaluated the 13 most significant providers of virtual care solutions. Each vendor is described and scored against 10 criteria. Forrester is making this report, The Forrester New Wave™: Virtual Care Solutions For Digital Health, Q2 2019, available through ACP at no charge for a limited time.

Read the report