FaceTime and HIPAA and Doctors – Oh My!

by Krissy Goelz (@krisgoelz)


At this point, news editors must have a macro so they dont have to type out a lede about how Apple products are breaking ground in another field. The latest is this: the iOS operating systems security capabilities might just take telemedicine and put it in the average consumers pocket.

Recently Apple announced that its FaceTime video chat can be made to be HIPAA compliant. (See the ZDNet conversation in which Apple confirmed this here.)

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (which is what HIPAA stands for) “provides federal protections for personal health information held by covered entities and gives patients an array of rights with respect to that information. At the same time, the Privacy Rule is balanced so that it permits the disclosure of personal health information needed for patient care and other important purposes.

Simply put, the purpose of HIPAA is to enable your patient data to be used for your care while making sure that its privacy is protected against other access.

FierceHealth opines that “The security assurances also may widen the use of FaceTime beyond the traditional clinician-to-patient model, to include provider-to-provider consults, nurse-to-physician powwows, combined treatment video sessions with multiple clinicians, and other scenarios that right now require a special, secured telemedicine connection.

What would all this talk really look like in practice?

  1. It means that a homebound, agoraphobic, long-distance, or embarrassed patient could have a consultation with a healthcare professional using their iPhone or iPad in their own home. They could walk the device around to show the HCP the life issues that affect their condition – anything from what the food in the fridge is, to what the handicapped-inaccessible bathroom looks like.
  2. It means that HCPs can directly connect with each other to discuss patients.
  3. It means that HCPs and patients can combine in varying numbers.

What does all this really mean? Well, I can tell you that…

  1. If I were a technology provider in the telemedicine field, Id be very, very worried. Would it make sense to outfit your hospital with state-of-the-art videoconferencing equipment for tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars when you could just switch your preferred mobile device to an iPhone?
  2. If I were a professional social network like Sermo, Id be hard at work to integrate these capabilities into my service.
  3. If I were an NGO working to bring healthcare to underserved areas of the world, Id be in talks with Apple right now about how to economically provide my people on the ground with iOS devices that could connect the field clinics with clinicians around the world.
  4. If I were a patient-support organization, especially one that focuses on a tech-savvy population, like Planet Cancer or Young Survival Coalition, Id be figuring out right now how to get a video teleconference set up with a top clinician.
  5. If I were a pharmaceutical company, Id be figuring out how to do something technologically groundbreaking and totally patient-focused in one of my disease areas of focus, by sponsoring one of the above efforts.

If youre reading this website, I bet that at least one of those bullet points hit home for you.

What are you waiting for?

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