Telehealth: A New Dimension to Healthcare

Advancements in technology and the growth of the internet have led to dramatic changes in daily life. It has impacted how we communicate, how we travel, how we shop and how we learn. The field of healthcare is no exception. Technology has improved how medical professionals access and share information and provide care to patients. Telehealth is a dynamic field that has the potential to dramatically change the face of healthcare.

Origins and Use

NASA popularized long distance medical care in the 1960s when astronauts went into space. They collected data remotely about the health of its astronauts and doctors assessed this information to gauge their health while they were in space. Ask-A-Nurse services began, allowing patients to call in and get advice. Today more healthcare providers are exploring the use of online patient portals which can help people connect with professionals if they are living in remote places. Telehealth services can also help save time and money.


Potential to Improve Care Through Data Management and Centralization

At this point, patient medical history can be challenging to share between different medical institutions and specialists. When a patient has to change doctors, the physician may not receive complete records or may have to run redundant tests because the existing patient information is insufficient. A complete patient profile charting a person’s health issues, diagnoses, treatments prescribed, and other information can be helpful to both patient and physician. It can help improve the level of treatment a patient receives if a new physician receives a complete picture of a person’s health journey. Technology has allowed for the development of a personalized health record system app which allows an individual to view their own medical data. This can be communicated with other healthcare professionals during an emergency which can help to save lives.
Telehealth has great potential to make a difference in the delivery of care, and although the technology exists, it might be a while before bureaucracy catches up.


Online Appointments via Video Conferencing

Online appointments can help patients easily interact with healthcare providers which can be critical for people who live in rural locations and for those who do not have access to transportation. Online appointments are also attractive for those who have busy schedules and who are not able to get into the doctor’s office because of their jobs. According to a study completed in August 2015, the average time for an appointment was 121 minutes with only 20 minutes spent in the presence of the doctor. The amount of time that patients are waiting at the doctor’s office is a burden for them and their employers and has been consistently increasing. Fortunately, the study also found that online appointments save this time and result in a more cost effective appointment for everyone. A patient shouldn’t spend needless hours in a waiting room to receive care. Scheduling an online appointment would allow them to spend the time how they see fit.


Making a Difference

In addition to sharing information and saving time, Telehealth can also help patients by providing a platform for them to manage their routine health and prevent serious cases from occurring. They can view or request results online through their patient portal and even securely message their provider with questions. The correspondence they’re able to make online and the answers they receive may even remove the need to schedule yet another appointment.

Telehealth is growing more popular and healthcare professionals, insurance companies and state governments are noticing. Thirty-eight states and the District of Columbia currently have a law that governs private payer Telehealth reimbursement and that number is expected to increase through growing demand. To learn more about telehealth and how we can help with HIPAA-Compliant Videoconferencing, contact us today.

2017 and Telehealth: An Encouraging Year for Expanded State Licensing Laws and Reimbursement Policies

Steady wins the race applies to telehealth’s entry into the mainstream of healthcare. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) reports that 61% of the nation’s healthcare institutions are employing some sort of telemedicine service, and more and more states are working to come up with viable guidelines for enacting telehealth laws and reimbursement policies. As of 2017, 48 of our 50 states had come up with substantive changes to how telehealth is delivered to those living in remote areas, the exceptions being Massachusetts and Connecticut.

In March, 2018, Iowa became the latest state to require insurers to treat telehealth services the same as those rendered in person, joining Arkansas, Maine, Indiana, Hawaii and Louisiana who in 2017 allowed physician/patient evaluations and relationships to be carried out via real time audio and visual telehealth technologies. Other examples of progressive state changes to Telehealth include:

Speaking of mental health, Epstein Becker & Green (a national law firm that focuses on healthcare and life sciences) reported in the appendix of their 50 State Survey of Telemental/Telebehavioral Health, that 31 states, plus the District of Columbia, have enacted private payment laws addressing issues such as how physician/patient relationships are established and how remote prescribing is carried out.

Another catalyst for expanded remote care came on the scene in April 2017 when the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact (“Compact”) went into effect. This milestone was an agreement between 24 states and one territory. Thirty one medical and osteopathic boards in those states created an expedited process for their licensed physicians to practice in multiple compact member states. The idea behind this agreement was to encourage states to institute regulatory frameworks that will increase interstate delivery of telehealth services and, in the process, increase payer coverage to states that currently do not have access to telemedicine.

But perhaps the most concrete and immediate promise for telehealth reimbursement to providers comes from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. The agency has been widely criticized for its restrictive guidelines on reimbursing providers for telehealth services delivered in rural areas, including limiting the type of authorized services and where they can be delivered. However, in a May 2018 press release CMS unveiled their new rural healthcare strategy. The plan focuses on how to best serve the 60 million plus Americans living in rural communities, while avoiding “unintended consequences of policy and program implementation.” Having come to the conclusion that advancing and modernizing telemedicine is the best way to accomplish this goal, they will be reducing “some of the barriers to telehealth such as reimbursement, cross-state licensure issues, and the administrative and financial burden to implement telemedicine.”

As in all areas, consumer demand will be the driving force toward government regulation, and rightly so. This demand has already resulted in a number of states enacting expanded or new parity laws requiring insurers to cover telehealth visits in increasing types of settings. Payers in states without parity laws are finding that they need to keep up on changes in legislation and must prepare for the day when every state mandates reimbursement for telehealth services. Advances such as those mentioned above contribute to the need for building a secure and user friendly platform to facilitate the delivery of telemedicine services and telehealth technologies into health care systems. As a provider of a HIPAA-compliant video platform designed to allow telehealth providers to set up their own secure video conferencing system, we invite you to contact us so you’ll be ready for that day.

The New Face of Healthcare

Almost one hundred years ago, a multi-talented inventor and writer by the name of Hugo Gernsback predicted a technology that would allow a physician to diagnose a patient using video. Today, that technology is known as Telehealth.

The concept of Telehealth dates as far back as the invention of the telephone with healthcare professionals consulting and advising one another at a distance. References to the use of telecommunication appear as early as 1879 and live video communication as early as 1925, however the face-to-face video portion was just a concept. Now Telehealth has grown and evolved drastically, allowing physicians to provide confidential services to patients around the world with care.

While still in the early stages of implementation, Telehealth promises to revolutionize healthcare worldwide.

Using two-way audiovisual technology, a physician can interact with a patient (or several at once) remotely. Any of the parties can be remote and the connection is instant. It’s reliable, easy to use and goes a long way in preventing late appointments and no-shows.

What areas of healthcare can be used by Telehealth?

The better question is “What sector can’t be used by Telehealth?” The technology has shown to be useful in countless specialties. To name a few:

HospitalsUrgent CareFirst Responders
Behavioral HealthNursing FacilitiesHospice Care
Chronic CareRemote Patient MonitoringDermatology
Provider NetworksResearchTrainings

In addition to being able to see and hear the patient in real time, there are peripheral medical instruments that can be used for further interaction.

Ditching traditional doctor visits

The current push is moving strongly towards Telehealth and it’s being fueled by Millennials, here’s why.

  1. It’s convenient. Smart phones are ubiquitous and nearly no millennials would be caught without one. Being able to meet with your doctor without having to walk, bike or drive over makes all the difference.
  2. Not missing work. Whether work ethic, team dependency, or financial motivations, millennials don’t want to miss work either. Telehealth visits really cut the time down to what’s necessary.
  3. Scheduling is easy. It can be done online with zero fuss and zero wait time. All availability is listed so there’s no back and forth. Oh, and you can add it directly to your calendar afterwards.
  4. See someone right away. Sometimes you need an appointment right away, and with an internet full of online doctors the world is your oyster. And you can read through reviews before meeting with them, just to make sure it’s a good fit.
  5. It’s so efficient. This is probably the biggest motivation. No matter how we choose to spend our time, we can likely all agree that spending it in the waiting room is a waste. Travelling a distance when we don’t have to is a waste, and waste is bad.

All in all, the versatility shown by Telehealth technology in supporting many diverse use cases has made it an incredible and desirable tool. In conjunction with the support of a booming millennial population, Telehealth is taking off as the new face of healthcare.

Telemedicine: A Key Component of the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018

On Tuesday, April 24, 2018, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) unanimously passed the Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018. This bipartisan committee consulted with officials and subject-matter experts from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) as well as mental health experts, state governors and families affected by drug abuse to establish 40 proposals for responding to this health crisis.

A key component of their response involves increasing the utilization of Telemedicine.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “[an]estimated 2.1 million people in the United States had a substance use disorder related to prescription opioid pain medicines in 2016,” and although effective medications are available to treat this addiction, “fewer than half of private-sector treatment programs offer [these medications], and of patients in those programs who might benefit, only a third actually receive it.

Telemedicine may be key to removing some of the obstacles to making these medications more available.

Ryan Haight Act of 2008

A primary obstacle to the use of Telemedicine in treating opioid addiction is the Ryan Haight Online Pharmacy Consumer Protection Act of 2008. This act was designed to prevent abuses from internet pharmacies that became popular in the 1990’s. According to the legislation, in order to prescribe controlled substances electronically, physicians must conduct an in-person examination of the patient, or the patient must be physically located in a hospital or clinic with a valid DEA registration. The DEA issued regulations that imposed a federal prohibition on form-only online prescribing of opioids and placed limits on the electronic prescription of controlled substances.

Although the legislation provided for a special registration that would have allowed physicians to prescribe controlled substances without meeting these requirements, the DEA failed to make this registry available. The Opioid Crisis Response Act is an attempt to compel the DEA to follow through on this provision.

Opioid Crisis Response Act of 2018

This comprehensive legislation includes forty proposals, attacking the opioid crisis from multiple angles. These provisions would enable the DEA to allow qualified healthcare providers to prescribe controlled substances using Telemedicine, expand the list of qualified providers to include community mental health and addiction treatment centers, and give more freedom for physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners in prescribing medication-assisted therapy to patients who struggle with opioid addiction.

By making it easier for physicians to prescribe controlled-substances to help addicts, these medications will become far more accessible to the people who need them most, and to patients living in under-served rural areas. This legislation will go into effect within one year, following a 60-day comment period allowed by the attorney general.

Other Provisions

Other provisions of the bill include:

  • States will be encouraged to share prescription drug monitoring programs (PDMP) with one another to allow doctors and pharmacies to know if patients have a history of substance abuse.
  • The HHS secretary will issue guidance every year informing providers what kind of information they can share with relatives about opioid-related emergencies and overdoses.

One advocacy organization, Shatterproof, provided the Senate with recommendations. Shatterproof founder and CEO Gary Mendell had this to say: “The Senate HELP Committee today made important progress in the fight against the opioid crisis by advancing this bipartisan legislation. We welcome the provisions to establish Comprehensive Opioid Recovery Centers and improve existing state Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs (PDMPs). As the bill moves to the full Senate, we urge senators to continue to improve upon the bill by including provisions to limit opioid prescriptions for acute pain to three days, require states to meet minimum best practices for PDMPs, and incentivize evidence-based approaches to treating substance use disorders. If passed, these smart, common-sense provisions will start saving lives immediately.”

For more information on Telehealth and how to get started, contact us today.

 

Telemedicine is Revolutionizing Inmate Care Within Texas Prisons

The healthcare industry is evolving fast to keep up with the demands of our growing population. While you may read about the aging Baby Boomer population as health care’s greatest challenge, other issues require similar attention. Dealing with inmate health in state prisons has become just as much of a hurdle.

Telemedicine has already helped many health care agencies be able to communicate better with patients. Now Texas is working with Texas Tech University and the University of Texas Medical Branch to increase inmate access to providers through telemedicine technology. It’s a major development in health care evolution because it saves time, reduces costs, removes transportation as an issue and is incredibly easy to implement.

How the Partnership Between Texas and the Universities Work

There isn’t a better partnership to improve inmate medical health in Texas prisons than the state working directly with universities. The partnership is one likely inspiring other medical institutions to bring improved health care to the masses.

With this practice, Texas now becomes a bold new innovator in telemedicine despite lagging behind on the technology in past years.

Dr. Owen Murray, vice president of offender health services at the University of Texas Medical Branch gives good insight into how telemedicine works with inmates:

“(Telemedicine) has improved access to care, and allowed us to recruit good doctors who might not want to work in prisons, but can now work in an office and meet with offenders remotely.”

The above partnership between the three (The Texas Department of Criminal Justice, UTMB, and Texas Tech University) is a huge step forward in providing comprehensive health services to inmates in Texas prisons.

How Estelle Prison is Making Telemedicine Work

In Huntsville, Estelle Prison was already experiencing trouble on medical costs caring for inmates. Their initiative to work with the state to bring care from the above universities could soon change everything in how they deal with inmate care.

Considering Texas has many prisons, this could finally improve their budgets after experimenting with telemedicine for years. The state was already using primitive forms of the tech as far back as the early 1990s, though the video technology prohibited efficient use.

Now with hi-definition cameras and high-speed internet, the time is right for them and other state prisons to take action. The prison is now using these to conduct Telemedicine visits, connecting remotely housed inmates with medical professionals all around the state by subcontracting prison healthcare to the above reputable universities.

Cutting Costs

The amount of money saved from telemedicine technology in Texas prisons is potentially exponential. This is important for the state because while prisons receive a certain amount of money to spend per prisoner, Texas spends far less on prisoners than the national average. Telemedicine technology is inexpensive and can boost quality greatly with little spend.

For one, using telemedicine allows digital face-to-face interactions with doctors and saves on transportation and high security costs (transferring inmates to a clinic or hospital, or requesting an in-house visit by the provider).

How about the technology? Is the startup cost high?
It’s not. The SecureVideo platform supports a wide range of devices which you likely already have. For example, smart phones and tablets are supported and they already have built-in cameras and microphones. Many laptops have these built-in as well and if your computer doesn’t, you can easily purchase an external webcam and get started right away. No special or proprietary equipment is used.

Setting up the Perfect Behavioral Health Use Case

Thanks to improved telemedicine cameras, doctors can create meaningful connections with patients as if they were in the same room, while also being able to instantly see another patient in an entirely different location. They can work from the comfort of their own offices securely and meet with different prisoners easily and efficiently.

From a cost standpoint, this saves the doctor having to travel great distances to the prisons, something they’d charge extra to do. This also potentially speeds up inmate care through on-demand sessions, which the provider is more likely to provide given that they can video conference from anywhere with an internet connection.

According to Urban.org, the telemedicine process has already saved Texas prisons from $200-$1000 per inmate.

Scheduling Follow-Ups

Setting a time for an inmate to meet with a doctor via telemedicine is extremely simple, and so are follow ups. The quick access to follow-ups lowers any chance of medical relapses or even death in inmates dealing with the most severe medical problems. This is a step forward to ensuring good medical outcomes and healthy patients.

Contact SecureVideo to learn about our HIPAA-compliant video platform and see how easy it is to securely integrate into your system.

Understanding Telemedicine’s History to Employ its Future

Around 70 years ago, Telemedicine made its debut to reach patients in otherwise fairly inaccessible regions where the patients lived. In fact, the first concept for telemedicine was prototyped in the early 20th century in what was known as the ‘Teledactyl,’ a machine that offered a video picture of a patient while a doctor remotely controlled robotic arms to care for the patient. However, while the idea never made it past the conceptual stage, it did closely predict what would become Telemedicine.

What birthed from a necessity to gain access to healthcare for people who would otherwise not be able to receive it, has since grown into the forefront of medical technology and is a powerhouse of integrated medical service delivery. Essentially, Telemedicine is the ‘Teledactyl’s’ modern cousin: a virtual consultation between a doctor and a patient.

The 1950’s brought the first real introduction of Telemedicine as hospitals experimented with the idea of sharing information remotely. They eventually sought to use this application in group therapy sessions in 1964 between the University of Nebraska and Norfolk State Hospital (a distance of 112 miles). In addition to this specialty, they also used video communications to provide speech therapy, neuro exams, psychiatric cases, consultations, research seminars and education and training (National Center for Biotechnology Information)

From Humble Beginnings to Urban Dreams

Once medical personnel began to see the benefits of reaching rural patients remotely, they immediately imagined Telemedicine’s potential in cities as well. The ability to reach patients during times of healthcare shortages and the possibility to treat patients undergoing medical emergencies without delay became clear: This technology offers the opportunity to save lives.

With these opportunities came funding for even more growth: the U.S. Government began offering finances to further telemedicine’s development, NASA got on board with the idea to watch over their astronauts health while away, and with the ever-expanding knowledge and success of Telemedicine, universities, hospitals, and private research groups all began exploring the technology.

Telemedicine’s Accessibility Today

As prices on Telemedicine technology continue to drop and advances in the technology surface, people across the world are seeing the benefits. As video technologies grow and expand like Facebook Video, Skype and Google Hangouts, the number of people who are comfortable meeting remotely is also on the rise (including medical visits). Besides not having to leave their home, patients are saving the time they use to waste sitting in the waiting-room for minor injuries, ailments, checkups, quick consultations, needing a prescription and much more. There are so many scenarios in which a video consultation makes life easier.

What’s more, Telemedicine can be accessed 24/7. If a provider decides, they can set up their availability past regular office hours and meet from home. Whether for emergencies, extra time on the weekend and not wanting to go into the office, whatever the reason, It’s up to them and it’s easy. Additionally, patients can just as easily check-in from home. There are even home-use medical devices that give patients the ability to deliver their medical information on-the-spot remotely, and patients have found the ease and accessibility of these devices to improve their standard-of-living.

Where Telemedicine is Going

Telemedicine has been cutting healthcare costs, increasing patient engagement, and giving people who would otherwise not have access to it a better quality of care. Follow-ups are easier than ever and, thus, care outcomes have improved tremendously. Telemedicine is truly changing the game of medicine across the board.

More than simple check-ups, Telemedicine has evolved into telepsychiatry, teleobstetrics, and telerehabilitation, amongst others. Nearly all forms of healthcare are beginning to adopt Telemedicine’s original idea of treating the patient at a distance. Though the ‘Teledactyl’ might not have had it exactly correct, its premonition of viewing and treating the patient remotely lives on and is crossing all boundaries of medicinal sciences.

 

If you’re interested in learning more about Telemedicine and how it can positively impact your life or practice, contact us today and we’ll be happy to learn about your usecase and discuss how we can help you. Our HIPAA-compliant video services and unbeatable customer service will help you connect securely and easily with doctors and patients across the globe.

Telehealth and HIPAA Compliance

Telehealth provides a number of benefits to patients and providers, such as increased access to care, improved efficiency, and increased communication. However, if you’re using a video conferencing service that is not HIPAA-compliant, you are putting your patients’ protected health information in jeopardy and reducing your credibility as a trustworthy health provider.

Consequences of a HIPAA Violation: HIPAA violations carry a number of potential consequences that depend on the size of the breach. They can include:

  • Immediate notification to affected parties
  • Media notification
  • Notification to the Secretary of Health and Human Services
  • Permanent public record of the breach
  • Fines
  • Loss of credibility

Potential civil fines range from $100 per violation to $50,000 per violation, up to $1.5 million per year. While these amounts might have a smaller impact on a large hospital group, the penalties can be staggering for smaller clinics and businesses. In addition to the financial penalty, the negative press of a HIPAA violation reported via the media or on the Health and Human Services site can cost you the trust and business of current and future patients.

Impact on Patients:  Your business isn’t the only thing impacted by a HIPAA violation. Your patients, whose protected health information was put at risk, are impacted significantly as well. Their sensitive information, which a patient should have full control over, is now public in a number of damaging ways. One HIPAA breach in 2014 resulted in an individual’s HIV status, mental health status, and sexual orientation–amongst other things–being faxed directly to his or her employer.

Good patient care requires that medical providers protect their patients’ private health information. This includes using a HIPAA-compliant teleconferencing service if you’re engaging in telehealth practices. Contact us today to get more information on how we can help meet all your telehealth needs simply and securely.

How State Prisons Use Telemedicine to Improve Care and Reduce Costs

Telemedicine is growing in popularity across numerous industries. One of the most beneficial uses of this technology occurs within the United States prison system. This innovative tech is changing the way we engage with healthcare, particularly in the areas of mental health. Prison operators recognize the enormous benefits of Telemedicine. Here, we examine how state prisons use Telemedicine to improve care and reduce costs.

Improved Behavioral Healthcare

The mental health of inmates is a primary concern to prison operators. The Atlantic reports that 55% of male inmates and 78% of female inmates within the US state prison systems are mentally ill. Some people believe treatment for these issues would have reduced the chance of many individuals becoming incarcerated in the first place. Properly treating mental disorders could then, lead to lower recidivism rates, and it certainly creates a safer environment for guards and inmates. Telemedicine is more effective and efficient than traditional treatment. It allows mental health professionals to see back-to-back patients in a variety of locations. Additionally, if an inmate needs immediate assistance, he or she has quick access to treatment as there is no need for a professional to travel to the prison /or transport the inmate to the doctor. This is extremely useful when an inmate becomes agitated or experiences a serious mental “breakdown.” It is also important to note that many behavioral healthcare professionals are simply uncomfortable entering a prison, and therefore, do not provide services to prison inmates. With Telemedicine, professionals can treat patients from the comfort of their own home or office. Furthermore, scheduling appointments is a simple process, and doctors can easily follow-up with patients.


Cost Effective

Prison operators often struggle to stay within budget. It is difficult to meet all the needs of inmates without exceeding fund limitations. The Vera Institute of Justice estimates the annual cost of incarcerating, a person in the US averages $30, 000-$60,000. Telemedicine helps reduce the cost of behavioral health. Paying a psychiatrist to travel long distances is quite expensive. Alternatively, transporting prisoners to healthcare professionals raises safety concerns, as well as increasing costs. With the large percentage of inmates needing psychiatric care, the compounded cost saving of using Telemedicine is enormous.


Increased Safety

Safety and security are additional concerns for prison operators. As we briefly mentioned in the sections above, Telemedicine helps create a safer environment for everyone. By properly treating mental illness, inmates are less likely to become violent or create problems for guards and other prisoners. Let’s imagine a common scenario where an inmate needs a change in medication. He is upset and acting out. It might take a week or longer for him to see a psychiatrist with the traditional methods of care. During this waiting period, things could go terribly wrong as he grows increasingly agitated. However, with Telemedicine, he can see a doctor within hours, rather than weeks. His medication is quickly switched, and the situation is diffused immediately. Additionally, security risks are lowered by eliminating the need for transportation to and from psychiatric facilities. The importance of these benefits cannot be understated. The improved safety implications are far-reaching within the prison system.

Telemedicine is increasingly gaining traction as state laws change to meet the needs of various medical use cases. The ability to access behavioral health professionals quickly and easily is shifting mental healthcare as we know it. Not only are states becoming more inclusive, one of SecureVideo’s main priorities is an easy and pleasant user experience for all with a 24/7 support team to back it up.

Contact us for more information.

Avoid Fines by Using a HIPAA-Compliant Video Service

Telemedicine services are an increasingly popular amenity for healthcare providers to offer patients, but unless the video service used is specifically developed for healthcare providers, it is likely in violation of HIPAA and could result in sizable fines.

HIPAA Rules
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) contains two rules that dictate how healthcare providers must protect their patients’ information. This includes any interactions via video conferencing.

  1. Privacy Rule
    The Privacy Rulerequires that healthcare providers use administrativephysical, and technical safeguards to protect a patient’s health information, whether it be in written, oral, or electronic form. However, the rule is deliberately flexible so that health providers can make their own determinations on safeguards that best match the needs of their practices.
  2. Security Rule
    The Security Ruleis focused solely on electronic records and dictates the implementation of security measures to ensure that those records remain private. The two rules are closely related, with the Security Rule adding additional protections on top of those mandated by the Privacy Rule.

HIPAA Enforcement
HIPAA is enforced by the Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR), which investigates potential violations and levies fines. In 2009, OCR’s ability to enforce HIPPA was strengthened with the passing of the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act, which increased potential fines and created four tiers of penalty amounts from $100 to $1.5 million per violation. In addition, the HITECH Act also bars organizations from using the defense that they are ignorant of HIPAA rules in order to avoid penalties.

Why Act Now?
HIPAA allows healthcare providers to make security decisions based on risk analyses. In a risk analysis between using a non-HIPAA-compliant video service and a HIPAA-compliant service, there would be few, if any, arguments for using the former over the latter.

While HIPAA-compliant services may not be free, they are relatively inexpensive, easy to install, and easy to use. Therefore, any healthcare provider not using a HIPAA-compliant service is liable to be investigated and fined by OCR for not taking appropriate measures to safeguard their patients’ protected health information.

Since 2003, OCR has investigated over 100,000 cases, levying over $75 million in fines. One of the top five compliance issues investigated was a lack of safeguards over electronic protected health information and the top two entities investigated have been general hospitals and private practices and physicians. OCR has and will take punitive action against healthcare providers of any size who do not safeguard their patients’ protected health information.

In addition to being fined, any healthcare provider that ends up on the HHS “Wall of Shame” has damaged their reputation. If a provider does not do everything possible to secure their patients’ protected health information, then not only are they in violation of HIPAA, they are violating their patients’ trust.

HIPAA-Compliant Video Conferencing

With many seeing telemedicine as the future of healthcare, it is essential that healthcare providers offering this service use a HIPAA-compliant video service with appropriate encryption and the ability to set user roles and permissions for staff members.

For further protection, that video service should also include a Business Associate Agreement, which states that any potential security breach or mishandling of protected health information on the service provider’s part is the liability of that provider, not the medical practice.

Protecting a patient’s health information should be a health provider’s top priority. Not only is it the law, it’s good business sense and the right thing to do.

 

SecureVideo is a HIPAA-compliant video service that securely connects patients and providers across the world. If you’re interested in learning more, contact us today.

The 6 Largest HIPAA Fines of 2017

Anyone handling protected health information (PHI), as defined under HIPAA, accepts a strong obligation to protect it. Transferring or storing it insecurely can be very costly. The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) collected penalties of over a million dollars six times in 2017 for violations. Five of these cases involved failure to protect electronic data.

Telehealth involves the storage and transmission of electronic protected health information (ePHI), and it has to be diligently protected. This requires risk assessments, data protection policies, and procedures that carry them out.

Memorial Healthcare Systems – $5.5 million

The largest assessment, $5.5 million, fell on Memorial Healthcare Systems, which operates six hospitals and other facilities in Florida. Unauthorized employees had access to ePHI through shared login credentials. The reasons for the huge fine included failure to review access controls and examine audit logs. Credentials cannot be shared.

OCR treats breaches severely when it finds that they’re the result of systematic neglect. An organization that suffers a data leak in spite of consistently good security practices might get only recommendations on improving them. One which is negligent, as in this case, could be made to give up a large amount of money and demonstrate improvement in its practices.


Children’s Medical Center of Dallas – $3.2 million

In second place, Children’s Medical Center of Dallas paid a civil penalty of $3.2 million. In 2009, it had lost an unencrypted BlackBerry device at an airport, containing ePHI on 3,800 people. In 2013, it lost an unencrypted laptop with ePHI on 2,462 people. OCR found its failure to encrypt devices that left the office was chronic and detrimental.

HHS’s press release cites CMC of Dallas as having”non-compliance over many years with multiple standards of the HIPAA security rule.” Once again, the failure to fix ongoing problems was a major factor in the amount levied.


CardioNet – $2.5 million

The third largest amount came in the first HIPAA settlement that involved wireless health services. CardioNet, which specializes in cardiac outpatient telemetry had to pay $2.5 million. While investigating the 2012 theft of a laptop from an employee’s car, OCR found CardioNet didn’t have any policies in final form for protecting ePHI. The lack of protection for mobile devices was a special concern. The required corrective action includes creating policies and procedures for protecting portable devices and storage media.


Memorial Hermann Health System – $2.4 million

The case of Memorial Hermann Health System is an odd one, showing that what would normally be acceptable disclosure can be forbidden under HIPAA. It cost MHHS $2.4 million for violating the Privacy Rule, putting it in fourth place.

In 2015, a patient at an MHHS clinic allegedly presented a fraudulent identification card. The staff called the police, who arrested the patient. Then MHHS issued a press release about the arrest, naming the patient. Under HIPAA rules, that’s illegal. The staff didn’t violate HIPAA by notifying the police and naming the accused person, but revealing the name to the public constituted disclosing PHI in the form of the patient’s name. This was the only penalty in the top six that didn’t involve electronic data security.


21st Century Oncology – $2.3 million

The case of 21st Century Oncology, a Florida provider of cancer care services, drew the fifth highest penalty: $2.3 million. This case started with two break-ins to 21 CO’s servers that resulted in the sale of data to an FBI informant. The breaches exposed confidential information on over 2 million people, including names, Social Security numbers, and diagnoses. OCR’s investigation found inadequate security protections and a lack of risk assessment procedures and activity reviews.

In May 2017, 21CO filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. It exited Chapter 11 status in January 2018.


MAPFRE – $2.2 million

Finally, MAPFRE Life Insurance Company of Puerto Rico agreed to pay $2.2 million for disclosure of ePHI. The starting incident was the theft of a USB drive from MAPFRE’s IT department. It contained names and Social Security numbers for 2,209 people. The OCR investigation found a lack of risk assessment plans and a failure to encrypt data. HHS reports that MAPFRE didn’t consistently encrypt portable data until almost three years after the theft. Its failure to implement corrective measures, after promising OCR that it would, was a factor in the heavy assessment.

As these cases show, data leaks will draw the attention of the OCR and can mean heavy financial penalties. Any discussion of patient information needs protection against thieves, accidents and even disasters. SecureVideo’s platform supports HIPAA-compliant videoconferencing and includes many features such as encrypted chat and file transfers. Contact us to learn how SecureVideo can help your organization provide secure and quality care to your patients.