Your Virtual Medical Office During a Pandemic
What is a Virtual Medical Office?
A virtual medical office is an office that functions in the virtual world. A virtual medical office also refers to small, separate offices that share various resources. The latter option allows a provider to rent space while providing full-service treatment.
How do they operate?
Most virtual medical offices use video calls to treat their patients. However, they may also employ 24/7 patient monitoring apps. The collected data paints a picture of a patient’s lifestyle and illness. Medical providers may use HIPAA approved software for meetings. 1
How has the pandemic increased the growth of virtual medical offices?
Due to the Covid-19 virus, there’s been an increase in virtual medical services. The early pandemic period saw a 154% increase in telecommunication appointments. That’s approximately 2.7 million people that stayed home for their doctor’s appointment. In a time of contagious disease, virtual healthcare contains the spread. 2
Additionally, fewer people in hospitals helped reduce the spread. Around 93% of patients used virtual medical meetings for non-covid reasons, and that percentage had little to no contact with the 7% of patients seen for Covid-related symptoms.
The demand for telehealth is rapidly growing. Providers have discovered that 20% of emergency room visits can be avoided by using a virtual medical office. Virtual medical offices are more convenient than traditional practices and offer lower overhead costs. 3
What Telehealth Services Should You Provide in Your Virtual Medical Office?
Mental health is a crucial part of the modern health model. More people are addressing the state of their mental health today, and many patients welcome the concept of self-care. As such, a virtual medical office without mental health treatment misses the chance to help a significant number of patients requiring this type of care.
Research shows that addiction treatment conducted through a virtual medical office is more effective than in-person treatment. Approximately 50% of patients in a virtual recovery program remained committed to their addiction treatment up to one year later. On the other hand, only 39% of in-person recovery patients stayed the full year for their programs.
Virtual medical offices that treat addiction must have HIPAA compliant software and devices. These offices should also offer secure video calls for telemedicine. Video calls are the most effective medium for virtual treatment. 4
How Has Telemedicine Changed Addiction Treatment?
Around 64% of telehealth providers state that the Covid-19 pandemic has made them more comfortable and well-versed in their fields. Additionally, Medicare and Medicaid authorized 80 new medical treatments to be eligible for telemedicine. Healthcare providers have also learned that they can interact with more patients via telemedicine than traditional, in-person methods. Moving forward, telemedicine providers will have greater access to patient monitoring systems, virtual space, and approved medical treatments.
The most significant drawbacks to telemedicine are internet limitations and the complexity of the required treatment. However, more individuals have access to cell phones and the internet in this age, and healthcare providers have become more focused on utilizing cutting-edge health monitoring systems. As telehealth evolves and becomes more common amongst healthcare professionals, the drawbacks decrease as well. 5
How Do HIPAA and Other Privacy Laws Impact Telemedicine?
Keeping confidential digital records in your virtual medical officeThe security of virtual medical office files is identical to the HIPPA mandates for electronic health records. There are several ways to guarantee the security of medical files, including but not limited to:
- Rights managers – A rights program prevents file access for employees with insufficient clearance. A rights management program also prevents 3rd party access to such files.
- Scheduled password changes – whether monthly or quarterly, mandatory password changes add an extra layer of security.
- Digital security team – A group of trained professionals ensures that your security software and settings are up to date. 6
Best practices for sharing medical information with telehealth
An encrypted network is the best way to ensure patient privacy during video calls. However, HIPAA has authorized the use of social media and other apps to conduct treatment. The most significant restriction is that the video isn’t in a public space. Providers have multiple options if they take the appropriate steps to ensure patient privacy. 7
Penalties for inadvertently violating a privacy law while providing virtual health care
HIPAA has severe fines and punishments for violating privacy laws. Fees range from $100 to $1.5 million, depending on the severity and frequency of the offense. Continued failure to comply can result in the suspension of medical licenses and investigation.
Why Partnering with Experienced Practice Aids A Virtual Medical Office
- Reduces Training Costs – Partnering with an experienced practice saves on training costs in the short and long term. By outsourcing, providers won’t have to keep the upfront costs of training or the yearly refresher courses, and a medical practice gets off the ground faster. This also provides immediate resources for the ins and outs of virtual medical offices.
- Reduces Time Spent Maintaining Digital Medical Records – Digital medical records can be difficult to read through. Having a dedicated individual handle medical records increases accuracy and saves time for medical providers.
- Reduces HIPAA Violations and Other Costly Privacy Errors – An experienced professional on a team lowers the chance of receiving HIPAA violations and the corresponding fees.
Telemedicine and virtual medical offices are on the rise. Rapidly advancing technology is providing more and more access to patients who wouldn’t otherwise receive it. As a healthcare provider, the patient comes first. Virtual medical offices positively benefit patient treatment and experience. Reach out today to get started in telehealth.