3 COSTLY MISTAKES TO AVOID WHEN CHOOSING A TELEHEALTH SOLUTION

The COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in a new, markedly different patient-practice dynamic that will become the new ‘normal’. Virtual telemedicine has been forced upon patients and practices, and there is no going back. As aesthetic practices scramble to find a telehealth solution that they can begin using immediately, it is imperative that they avoid these 3 common, yet costly, mistakes.

INTRODUCTION

As aesthetic business owners scramble to ensure that their practices can offer virtual consultations during this unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, its important for plastic surgeons and medical spas to learn from the mistakes of our recent past. When the government introduced Meaningful Use to the healthcare realm over a decade ago, hundreds and hundreds of EMR vendors popped up overnight looking to cash-in on this opportunity. With little time for proper development and product testing, it’s no surprise that the first generation of EMRs produced such an abysmal reaction by both physicians and patients that still lingers to this day.

Fast forward to the current crisis we are facing with the novel coronavirus. Doctors and aesthetic business owners are once again faced with a similar conundrum that has the potential to lead to similar results as before. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, mandatory shutdowns and quarantines shut the doors of plastic surgery practices around the country. Telehealth has evolved from a non-essential luxury to a basic element of survival. The ability to conduct virtual video appointments has become the primary communication medium in order to maintain ‘contact’ with patients and prospects.

With all of this context in mind, here are 3 critical mistakes to avoid when selecting your telehealth solution.

1. UNDERESTIMATING THE NECESSITY OF HIPAA COMPLIANCE

HIPAA regulatory legislations were temporarily lifted in order to accommodate the sheer fact that most doctors were not prepared for a telemedicine reality. However, it is critical to remember that these are indeed temporary, and are intended solely as a stop-gap ‘band-aid’ in order to provide physicians with enough time to properly research and select a true telehealth solution. FaceTime, for example, would not carry any regulatory penalties during this period of crisis. Yet health officials stressed in the same breath that practices should still seek to adhere to HIPAA compliance as much as is possible.

Before COVID-19, the worst-kept secret in aesthetics was that a majority of plastic surgery practices were conducting virtual consultations in violation of HIPAA legislation, either through Skype or FaceTime or GoToMeeting. There were, and still are, many false assumptions and misunderstandings regarding whether Skype is indeed a compliant virtual medium for PHI. If you are feeling brave, you can click here to read the full HIPAA Guidelines on Telemedicine that explain the error with FaceTime, SMS Texting and Skype for Business (now known as Microsoft Teams).

BEWARE OF BEING #ZoomBombed

Even Zoom, which promotes a HIPAA compliant option, is facing scrutiny by the New York Attorney General regarding its privacy practices. Over the last few weeks, internet trolls have exploited a Zoom screen-sharing feature to hijack meetings and do things like interrupt educational sessions or post white supremacist messages to a webinar on anti-Semitism — a phenomenon called “Zoombombing.”

The New York attorney general’s office is “concerned that Zoom’s existing security practices might not be sufficient to adapt to the recent and sudden surge in both the volume and sensitivity of data being passed through its network.”

2. BETA-TESTING A WORK IN PROGRESS

This was the reason EMRs failed healthcare for so many years. Companies and entrepreneurs were in a race against the clock to get customers simply by being available to take orders. Learn from this mistake. Luckily, there is a ‘grace period’ of HIPAA regulatory relaxation that you can take advantage of to thoroughly vet telehealth vendors and select the option that is best for your practice and for your patients. Anytime you are dealing with PHI and ePHI, it is critical to move forward with a vendor that has established themselves as a leader in the industry with a solution that has been proven to work properly.

As the large majority of EHR/Practice Management vendors scramble to add telehealth to their list of promoted features, the last thing your business needs is to take on the responsibility of testing and falling victim to the growing pains that come from any new product development release.

3. TRUSTING THE FUTURE OF YOUR BUSINESS TO A SOLUTION THAT DOES NOT OFFER A MOBILE APP

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed outdated, legacy EHR/PM systems for what they are: dinosaurs. Telemedicine is the new reality, as well as the new future, of aesthetics. Take a hard look at the practice software vendors in this industry and examine which solutions are scrambling to add band-aid stop-gap fixes; versus which solutions are already well-prepared for the telehealth landscape and are built upon an agile, mobile foundation.

Conducting virtual consultations that require a patient to undergo a complicated login process on a computer or web browser defeats the purpose of telemedicine, and puts your aesthetic business behind the 8-ball.

Mobile apps are by far the most popular and preferred method of communication for patients and practices. A mobile app solution also eliminates the glaring problem that web-based patient portals present: getting through a patient’s email inbox.

An astonishing 79% of healthcare related emails go unopened! That is insane. 8 out of 10 emails you are sending your typical patient are not even opened. The reasons are fairly logical when you stop and think about it. How many emails do you get every day? Do you open all of them? How many of them are spam? Do you ever find emails that go into the JUNK folder incorrectly?

Relying on a patient’s email inbox for telemedicine is doomed to fail.

As small-business owners, it is imperative that you use forward-looking vision to invest in a solution that is equipped to succeed during the next ten years of aesthetics.

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