A HIPAA-Compliant Path to Efficiency and Relief with Telehealth

By Nate MacLeitch, founder and CEO, QuickBlox.

We’ve come a long way since the University of Nebraska pioneered two-way video communication for telemedicine in 1959. Today, telehealth enables healthcare providers to expand access to medical support, improve patient convenience, streamline workflows, and enhance clinical outcomes. But as telehealth has grown, so too have the regulations around it. 

The software behind telehealth — including on laptops, tablets, the cloud, and increasingly AI — requires careful governance and robust security protocols to ensure patient privacy in accordance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). 

The following explores how telehealth can alleviate administrative burdens and create a more efficient experience, while HIPAA compliance ensures the product is safe for both patients and providers to trust.

HIPAA Compliance Builds Patient and Clinicians’ Trust

While demand for digital health adoption from patients (33%) and providers (36%) is rising, over half of clinicians surveyed are still concerned about data breaches or malware attacks on their healthcare data, global advisor HIMSS (Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society) reports.

Securely communicating sensitive patient information (PHI) within a healthcare organization can be challenging when relying on everyday tools like SMS, Skype, and email. While these platforms offer encryption mechanisms, they fall short in two key areas. 

Firstly, achieving effective encryption requires a uniform environment. Everyone within the organization must use compatible operating systems and the same encryption/decryption software. This uniformity can be difficult and expensive to maintain across a large organization with diverse devices and software versions. 

Secondly, even with encryption, the service providers themselves — like Verizon, Skype, and Google — still have access to the underlying data on their servers. Business associate agreements (BAAs) can be established to address these concerns, but these rely on the providers to maintain the integrity of the encrypted data. Here, Skype’s past actions raise red flags, and it’s fair to question if major communication companies like Verizon or Google would be comfortable with the additional responsibility and potential legal implications of healthcare data breaches.

Designed to protect PHI and electronic PHI (ePHI), HIPAA outlines technical, physical, and administrative safeguards. Unauthorized access by insiders accounted for 93% of reported incidents in 2023. For security, patient data must be encrypted both in transit and at rest; its unreadable format only made accessible with authorized decryption keys, and given to healthcare personnel on a need-to-know basis.

When implementing new tools, healthcare providers must ensure their teams and third-party providers comply with HIPAA regulations, know how to identify phishing scams, and understand password hygiene and mobile device security (such as locking screens and keeping software up-to-date). Training should also include assessing the security practices of telehealth third-party AI vendors and reviewing their security certifications and data privacy policies.

These measures demonstrate a commitment to data security and privacy, fostering trust and encouraging wider adoption of telehealth services.

Alleviating Staff Shortages and Administrative Burdens

Ongoing staffing struggles and intensifying administrative burdens continue to strain nurses and healthcare providers. And 75% of medical group leaders say their burnout levels increased in 2024. 

Telehealth platforms provide direct access to patients, along with an array of tools to manage that contact. Appointment schedulers and reminders, instant access to patient information with electronic health record (EHR) integrations, and built-in AI assistants that can draft emails and transcribe video consultations help relieve some of the heavy lifting.

Aggregated, all-in-one technology with joint ventures between communications platforms and large language models (LLMs) are helping telehealth platforms evolve to a whole new level. Sealing the partnership with HIPAA-compliant BAAs, these telehealth platforms can automate many administrative tasks, such as revising documents, updating patient records, and ensuring every patient receives their follow-up. For example, Theos Health has recently integrated a cutting-edge AI-enhanced telehealth platform, enabling remote, secure, and HIPAA-compliant patient consultations.

This advanced platform not only facilitates patient triage but also automates the creation of clinical notes, identifies relevant billing and diagnosis codes, and provides transcription services. Andrew Paolillo, Product Manager at Theos Health, states, “Incorporating AI features into our telehealth platform significantly boosts clinic workflow efficiency and reduces administrative burdens for our staff.”

There is a reason industries across the board are going digital; and convenience, traceability, and learning opportunities all play a huge part. Analytics dashboards can present information at a glance, and track key metrics like appointment no-show rates and patient wait times, enabling providers to identify areas for improvement and optimize workflows.

Embracing telehealth is not just about meeting regulations; it’s about building patient trust, streamlining workflows, and creating a more efficient healthcare ecosystem. By utilizing secure data encryption, automation tools, and HIPAA-compliant telehealth solutions, patients and clinicians can enjoy a better, safer healthcare experience.

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