Evaluating Software Platforms
One of the most critical parts of a telemedicine is the software platform you choose. There are hundreds of software vendors out there, but they are not all created equal.
As you evaluate which software is going to work best for you:
- Choose a vendor with experience and expertise in healthcare technology
- Select software that offers a wide range of telemedicine and telehealth solutions
- Select software that is proven to work with your entire medical office system, including scheduling, reminders, patient portal, consent and intake, online payments, EHR and billing software
- Prioritize software that offers a high level of data security and meets HIPAA standards
- Telemedicine is a cloud solution, so maintaining a congruent platform for all your applications means avoiding the hassle of managing servers and integrations
Once you decide on the right software solution, the next step is to address provider licensing. Familiarize yourself with state and local laws. In some cases physicians may need to be licensed in each state, which is costly and time-consuming. But taking those important steps can avoid serious legal issues down the road.
It’s important to understand how reimbursements work for telemedicine. Some states have “parity laws” to pay the same rate as in-person visits, but that is not a national standard. Individual payors set their own rules for telemedicine visits and the reimbursement rates for each type of visit. Clinics with internal medical coding and billing staff need to understand how to properly code telemedicine visits to maximize reimbursement rates.
Implementing Data Security
Your providers and staff are probably already familiar with HIPAA laws and regulations. As you adopt new technology, it’s still a good idea to train everyone on how those laws affect telemedicine care. You may need to revamp your clinical space to include an area where providers can see patients virtually that is secure and HIPAA compliant. For example, creating a separate office with controlled access that eliminates the chance of someone seeing or overhearing a telemedicine visit.
An additional consideration is to ensure you and your technology partner(s) have a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) in place. This document outlines vendor responsibility for protecting patient data. You also need to ensure a secure and fully encrypted network is in place for all communications and data transfers. The more reputable technology providers will be able to share their safeguards. The key here is not to cut corners and put yourself at risk with the many “free” apps and services that are not designed for healthcare.