On March 19, the Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) issued mandatory health orders to medical practices statewide to delay all elective medical and dental procedures until April 6th. On March 28, the order was amended such that non-emergency procedures are postponed further notice. Under these guidelines, Medical and dental practices have had to reduce office hours and/or close their office.
Patients were unable to get the help they needed or prescriptions filled, while most practices were left scrambling to reschedule patients at a later date, delaying procedures, as well as suffering a major financial loss.
A few practices already had platforms in place for their staff to remotely access practice management and electronic health records. The majority had only one staff member with remote access, therefore they immediately contacted their IT companies for assistance in providing access to other staff members.
If your practice has processes in place to work remotely or if you are in need of this capability, there are several security steps that you need to know.
You first want to make sure you have a secure VPN software connection between your practice and remote workplace and one that is HIPAA HITECH Compliant to protect the PHI information you are accessing.
If you are already accessing your practice management and EHR in the cloud, check with your IT company because you may have that level of protection. Some practices may have firewall installed that comes with VPN software built-in. In that case it may simply need to be activated and or purchased.
You can also do it yourself by downloading software products onto your office PC and/or laptop such as GoToMyPC.com, TeamViewer.com, and RealVnc.com. Prices range from $65-$150 depending on how many concurrent connections your practice needs for its staff members.
Telemedicine is the buzz word right now and your practice may have been offering it before the COVID-19 outbreak. Telemedicine is not for everyone and can range by specialty, yet it does allow you the option to safely serve patients so they may get the immediate care they need.
Telemedicine can be utilized for consultations, follow-up visits, and counseling on a wide range of topics by using a smart phone or computer camera. This type of point to point connection can be set up easily through sites like Zoom for Healthcare, https://zoom.us/healthcare, for as little as $200 per month.
Updox.com offers a Telehealth platform with a vast assortment of additional features that can be found at https://info.updox.com/telehealth-video-chat-platform. Pricing is available upon request.
Visuwell, https://visuwell.io/ offers a Telehealth platform as well with prices ranging from $149-$499 per month.
These telemedicine options are highly rated and provide a BAA, Telehealth Patient Consent Form, a recording and backup of the consultation, and HIPAA HITECH Compliance with a secure 256 bit encryption method.
Virtual consultations are gaining traction with a large majority of doctors offering this popular service via their practice's website. You can contact your web designer to see if your current design has this capability.
Most of the time the setup requires a website design company that focuses on healthcare and has a great deal of experience designing patient portals that secure the patient information. This allows a patient to securely login, upload photos, and request a consultation time to speak with a doctor. Once information is reviewed, doctors and their staff can consult with the patient over the phone or remotely through a Telemedicine platform.
One thing is certain about the future of healthcare: remote workplaces, telemedicine, and virtual consultations are here to stay and will be considered the new normal even after the Coronavirus outbreak subsides and everyone's daily routine commences.
More and more people will want to save money and time through remote consultations. This technology saves patients from driving long distances and offers scheduling convenience all at the touch of a button.
Thomas Kane is the CEO of Keep IT Simple.