HIPAA Compliance and an Integrated Design for Continuity of Care

By Lawrence Byrd, Director, Communications APIs, Vonage
Twitter: @Vonage

The way the world seeks – and provides – medical care has forever changed. The healthcare journey no longer begins and ends in the waiting room. For many, it now starts at home, whether you’re in the same town as your healthcare provider or halfway around the world. Thanks to advances in technology, such as video and messaging APIs and other features that make it possible to maintain HIPAA cloud compliance, telehealth is empowering patients to consult with healthcare professionals from virtually anywhere. Telehealth is now not only an acceptable channel, but also the preferred way for many patients to interact with their doctors through any number of means, including video, voice, and messaging.

The healthcare market has been evolving quickly since the early days of 2020. At the forefront of this monumental shift are API-driven video and messaging solutions, which can be embedded directly within a health provider’s existing platforms and business applications to deliver personalized and secure point-of-care service. With communications technology built using APIs that align to strict healthcare privacy and data management guidelines, organizations in the healthcare sector have successfully created custom solutions that enable them to deliver a compliant and flexible patient care experience in real-time.

However, HIPAA compliant cloud providers are crucial for any healthcare organization. Communications between patients and medical practitioners are central to today’s digital healthcare experiences. To remain compliant and keep customer data safe, healthcare organizations must deliver HIPAA-compliant solutions, and the use of compliant SMS and Video APIs are now key to providing patients with secure communications across their preferred channels. With APIs, these capabilities are scalable and more secure than over-the-top video solutions, removing the risk of downloading plug-ins and allowing for automatic updates and security patches to be applied across any browser, such as Chrome, Safari, Firefox or Edge.

The Doctor Will See You Now

As telemedicine continues to explode in popularity and becomes a primary avenue for care, its adoption by doctors, healthcare providers and patients has the opportunity to be improved significantly, which in turn can help to better health outcomes for all. Not only has the rise in telehealth helped to reduce the disruption of critical medical care during the pandemic when in-person visits were not possible but it also provides remote care to those who might not otherwise have access to life-saving services, such as those in rural areas or developing countries. Telehealth also has the added benefit of convenience, enabling patients and doctors to interact in an organic, comfortable way that fits within their respective schedules and workloads. “The doctor will see you now” has taken on a whole new meaning.

A holistic communications strategy that lets health applications incorporate voice, video, and text-based interactions into a single design is well-equipped to facilitate high-quality, HIPAA-compliant care for remote patients.

HIPAA Compliance – It Matters

Building a robust patient journey today includes technology that enables video consultations, group discussion sessions, care and drug reminders, status notifications, critical alerts, and more. Leveraged together, Video and SMS APIs that enable HIPAA compliance allow programmable communications to be seamlessly embedded and integrated within healthcare providers’ existing healthcare applications, including:

  • An Automated Appointment Experience – The ability to manage appointment scheduling easily via mobile appointment check-in and pre and post-visit text alerts.
  • Patient Relationship Management – A higher standard of care with convenient mobile prescription notices, medical reminders, and important follow-ups.
  • Situation Readiness – Ensure staff and patients are alerted in real time during time-critical circumstances.
  • Digital Surveys – Collection of valuable patient feedback to continue to elevate their medical experience.
  • Authentication – Authentication and verification of patients to ensure privacy and security.

To offer patients all of this, and more, the vetting of API providers for HIPAA compliance is a critical part of maintaining a responsible practice. When it comes to patient data, healthcare organizations of all sizes, from single-office practices to large operations, including both health providers and health plans, are vulnerable. No matter the size or type of a healthcare organization, it’s important to assess whether you’re taking on cloud technology that will enable HIPAA compliance to deliver your communications solutions.

Key to a healthcare provider’s vetting process is to ensure security and data privacy best-practices by conducting independent third-party audits. These serve to confirm HIPAA-compliant status through the implementation of required security, privacy and data breach related safeguards for the protection of protected health information (PHI) when APIs are used appropriately. Under the terms of HIPAA, a compliant provider acts as a “Business Associate” to healthcare customers, signing Business Associate Agreements (BAA) that specify each party’s responsibilities when it comes to PHI.

Technology Will Continue to Drive the Path Forward

The world of healthcare has irrevocably changed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, as patients and providers adapted and shifted to telehealth solutions. As we emerge from the pandemic, patients will continue to expect seamless, convenient digital experiences on their time and their preferred channels. With APIs, providers have the power to build HIPAA-compliant patient communication journeys, offering security and personalized care at every touchpoint, from anywhere – no matter what.