In our recent Tidepool for telemedicine webinar with Mark Harmel, MPH, CDCES, he mentioned using Zoom for telemedicine visits. We took a look at the features that he thought made Zoom a solid choice, as well as what you might look for in evaluating teleconferencing tools for telehealth. You can check out that webinar and more in our on-demand webinar library at tidepool.org/webinars.
The same teleconferencing tools that we find ourselves using during shelter-in-place orders for working and socializing have a vital place in delivery of healthcare during this time. Zoom, a cloud-based video conferencing service, is a widely used tool for facilitating telemedicine visits between healthcare providers and their patients. There’s a range of reasons that platforms like Zoom are well-positioned for this use case, but Zoom’s HIPAA-compliance license for health use and its screen-sharing abilities make it a strong candidate as a telemedicine platform.
- Patient waiting room allows for patient privacy during transitions while the provider can see who is in the queue.
- Integration with Epic.
- Patients can use a link to access meetings without having to create an account.
- Multiple participants can join in a HIPAA-compliant setting, allowing caregivers and family members to join, and easier facilitation of group sessions.
Here’s how leading providers in the diabetes space think about using Zoom and other telemedicine platforms for telemedicine appointments.
The value of screen-sharing
In a recent webinar with Tidepool, Mark Harmel, MPH, CDCES, shared how screen-sharing offers an opportunity to share insights with his patients.
“Tidepool was introduced to us to use as our [data-sharing] software. The Tidepool team, including Howard [Look] and Brandon [Arbiter], jumped on a teleconference call with us, and suddenly they shared their screen. They were showing us a live view of the Tidepool platform. A light bulb in my head went off saying, ‘This is a telemedicine visit. This is how we could be doing these visits — people don’t have to come in all the time.’”
By walking your patients through their data step-by-step via a shared screen, you will empower them to gain a level of understanding that is much harder to achieve through a phone call alone.
Security and privacy
One offering that numerous healthcare providers we’ve interviewed believe you should ask about when selecting a telemedicine platform is whether the company offers a HIPAA-enabled plan. With HIPAA-certified technology, meetings and chats are encrypted, and specific security measures are put in place to protect PHI (Personal Health Information).
Ideally, your selected platform will have the ability for more than one host to give clinics the flexibility to facilitate easier handoff between intake staff and clinicians.
Medical assistants can co-host meetings and take on the administrative task of handling the technical setup and operation of the video tool. This helps ensure meetings run smoothly and helps avoid technology hiccups for both the patient and healthcare provider.
Benefits of waiting rooms
A helpful advanced feature some healthcare providers have mentioned is the waiting room feature offered by platforms like Thera-LINK and Zoom. Waiting rooms (like in-person waiting rooms) hold attendees from joining a meeting until a host admits them. This gives clinics the advantage of smoother handoffs between administrative staff and healthcare providers, and some breathing room between visits where they can take notes and see who is next in their queue.
Some platforms also offer customization of waiting rooms to reflect your clinic’s logo, or any information you may want patients to know while they’re waiting.
Remote patient monitoring
As Tidepool’s Chief Medical Advisor Dr. Saleh Adi offered as a participant in our webinar with Mark Harmel, “It’s time well-spent teaching patients how to upload their data at home, as they will continue to do so even when they return to normal in-person visits.”
Encouraging your patients to upload their data from the comfort of their home on a regular cadence will aid your telemedicine visits and empower them, too. One of several platforms for diabetes data visualization, Tidepool’s software is easy to use from home and made available to users free of charge. You can direct patients to the Tidepool Uploader user guide to familiarize them with this data-sharing software.
For patients with technology difficulties
Some patients may find it challenging to use teleconferencing software. Reiterate that while video conferencing may seem daunting at first, it is a simple process that will become more comfortable after a few uses.
It’s important to also remind patients that they are not alone: You and your clinic are invested in their well-being and are committed to helping where you can.
You may also encounter patients who don't have the technology to support virtual appointments. For example, no computer, tablet, or smartphone, or limited access to the internet. In this case, Mark Harmel recommends phone calls as an alternative.
“Not everyone has a computer, and not everyone is computer-savvy. We find that iPads are working pretty well and so a lot of people are using iPads [for their telemedicine visits]. We’re finding that FaceTime is working well also. In a pinch, we can go back to using a telephone call and talking on the phone.”
If you want to learn more about integrating your selected teleconferencing software with other applications, such as Epic or Slack, check out their marketplace or support site directly. These can also be great places to get further information on topics such as using accessibility features.
You can find more information in our Tidepool for telemedicine webinar series, where we interview key thought leaders on all things telemedicine.