As our current pandemic worsens, individuals all over the nation are being told to self-isolate. State governments are issuing curfews or stay-at-home orders to ensure the safety of their citizens as COVID-19 has proven to be a fast spreading virus, and a deadly one at that.
COVID-19 attacks the respiratory system, causing damage to the lungs at an unbelievably fast rate. Because of the threat COVID-19 has proven to be, industries all over the globe have had to adopt new regulations to slow the rate of contagion, specifically healthcare.
The Current Situation
Before this pandemic, Telehealth was an up-and-coming industry, popular mostly to those who struggled to make it to physical offices or had minor concerns about their health. However, telemedicine has already shown to be an absolute necessity in a crisis that requires individuals to keep their distance. With the ability to connect to providers in a virtual setting, patients are seeking care through telemedicine platforms in obtaining diagnoses, requesting prescription refills, and even viewing test results, all through the online platform. Whether through a computer, tablet, or smart phone, accessing a healthcare professional in the comfort and safety of your home has never been easier. Furthermore, with the high demand within hospitals to care for sick patients, there is little availability to assist those showing few to no symptoms of COVID-19, not to mention a high risk of infection given the proximity to ill patients. Therefore, it is clear to see why many are turning to telemedicine to get the care that they need.
The Future Optics
Current projections show that normal operations within the United States could remain halted until mid-June or later, but it is unlikely that they will ever return to how they were before. The large shift to telemedicine versus a physical office has been so successful that it is likely to remain a main point of contact even after the virus’ spread slows down. Individuals are now more aware of the high risk of exposure to illnesses in a physical office, not to mention the ease in communicating with a provider over a virtual platform rather than waiting in room with ten or more other individuals requiring care. The versatility of telemedicine platforms have unmatched potential in outreach and accessibility, appealing to both patients and providers alike. Already, telemedicine has changed the way healthcare within the United States functions, and will continue to be an important tool long after we move forward from this pandemic.
As telemedicine popularity increases under the COVID-19 strain, many are turning to virtual platforms to connect to healthcare providers for consultations. Telemedicine has proven to be a necessary change in the approach to healthcare, receiving support from healthcare officials around the nation and even the government in the fight against the mass spread of COVID-19. However, with all the attention now on telemedicine platforms, it is important to know that they are not all created equal.
What is HIPAA?
HIPAA, or Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, ensures the safety and security of patients when obtaining healthcare services. HIPPA was passed by Congress in 1996 to reduce healthcare abuse and fraud against patients as it required patient records to remain confidential and set nationwide standards for informing and/or billing patients. This standard maintains a tight security of confidential information, ensuring other parties cannot access any records or reports without consent of the patient.
Telemedicine in relation to HIPAA
There are many telemedicine platforms available to consumers, all promising the best in providing services and maintaining safety, but unless their applications are HIPAA compliant, you may be at risk when sharing your information. For a telemedicine application to obtain that status of HIPAA compliancy, the application must ensure all data is unable to be hacked or stolen. Usually, this process would require a specified system that encrypts data inputed so that outside parties cannot gain access to confidential information. If any parties attempt to obtain information from the system, the true content of the information would be hidden. HIPAA compliant applications must also undergo rigorous audits to verify that patient information cannot be stolen or viewed without consent.
Risk of using Non-HIPAA Compliant Platforms
- Without the assurance of safety set by HIPAA standards, telemedicine applications cannot guarantee that your personal information is safe. If you upload confidential information, such as your name, birthdate, medical history, or even an account number/card, your information could be compromised. More so, if you provide any test results through a non- HIPAA compliant application, your records may be accessible to unapproved parties.
- To avoid any unnecessary risk, be sure to limit the information you provide to these unprotected applications. To avoid it altogether, seek telemedicine applications that are HIPAA compliant and are committed to protecting all your information, that way you can focus on staying healthy instead of worrying about the safety of your identification.