Given the Coronavirus Pandemic, the light is shining brighter on the option to provide care remotely, and new solutions are being put in place to ensure private data is protected, and that the right financial models are in place including incentives to give and receive care virtually. Insurers and government agencies are covering visits, and the new generation of doctors, nurses and other specialists are gravitating towards interacting via computers and their mobile devices.
The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is responsible for enforcing certain regulations issued under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), as amended by the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, to protect the privacy and security of protected health information, namely the HIPAA Privacy, Security and Breach Notification Rules (the HIPAA Rules).
As COVID-19 continue to spread across America, covered health care providers subject to the HIPAA rules can much more efficiently (and safely) communicate with patients, and provide telehealth services, through remote communications technologies.
OCR will exercise its enforcement discretion and will not impose penalties for noncompliance with the regulatory requirements under the HIPAA Rules against covered health care providers in connection with the good faith provision of telehealth during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency, which the US Government made effective earlier this month.
Under this Notice, covered health care providers may use applications that allow for video chats, including Apple FaceTime, Facebook Messenger video chat, Google Hangouts video, or Skype, to provide telehealth. They can now do so without risk that OCR might seek to impose a penalty for noncompliance with the HIPAA Rules related to the good faith provision of telehealth during the COVID-19 nationwide public health emergency.
But how can these incoming calls be handled efficiently? Healthcare providers and insurers are turning to contact center methodologies and platforms that support these methodologies to handle video calls and to route callers to the appropriate service or person.
We asked Sean Erickson, Managing Director at Eventus, a Customer Experience and Contact Center consulting and services company based in Denver, for his thoughts on how current technologies can be leveraged immediately to improve the speed and accuracy of critical care.
“Telemedicine and telehealth – which includes mental health services, which are critical during times of intense stress – are part of an ongoing digital health revolution underway for years,” Erickson said. “While using any open system to interact with patients is an option, especially during an emergency, many of our clients who are serving patients are leveraging all the benefits of intelligent contact center platforms. By doing so they can serve more patients more quickly and accurately, capture valuable information and trends, and simplify insurance coverage with certain integrations.”
“Hospitals already are using telemedicine and telehealth to improve access, help with the surge in demand and fill gaps in care, to provide services 24/7, and to expand access to medical specialists,” Erickson said. “There are finite health resources availableand providing online options has been proven successful in meeting demands and spikes caused by ‘black swan’ events like COVID-19.”
Hospitals and health systems already working to increase the maturity of their virtual care capabilities are better positioned to respond to surges; hospitals who have been slow to will be increasingly challenged by new market entrants and other disruptors whose foundation is based on digital care including direct-to-consumer, which includes virtual care, remote patient monitoring and extending care delivery into the home via technology including connected medical devices (Internet of Medical Things, or IoMT).
“At times like these, innovations can in fact blossom,” Erickson said. “But we need to move beyond technology for technology’s sake, and make sure we are continuing to deliver humanized care. Supporting, for example, instant video consultations with the right doctor, nurse or specialist, including instant routing based on who is available, even during an emergency. This is where decades of experience and cloud innovations pays off immediately.”
The U.S. Health Resources & Services Administration of the Department of Health & Human Services defines telehealth as the use of electronic information and telecommunication technologies to support and promote long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration. The most common telehealth platforms include synchronous and asynchronous technologies like videoconferencing, store-and-forward imaging, email and remote-patient monitoring.
“We’ve seen hospitals using telemedicine and telehealth over the past few years to extend access to specialty care, or to serve rural markets,” Erickson explained. Other reasons for embracing this new world is more efficient post-op follow up, lower readmission rates, better adherence to medication and generally more positive health outcomes. And giving the patient more control over their desired healthcare visit experience.This global health emergency is simply highlighting opportunities to create more cost-effective and scalable solutions, lower barriers and making quality care more accessible to all.”
Originally published on HealthTech Zone
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