Have you been using Zoom recently for your personal video calls? How about your professional ones? I’ve been using Zoom a lot since the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted business as usual (not to mention life as usual) – and I’m far from alone. At the start of March 2020, Zoom had just under 68,000 active daily users; by mid-May, that number had shot up to over 771,000.
Professionals from all walks of life have been using Zoom to hold meetings and provide services as the pandemic grips the world. I wanted to look particularly at Zoom healthcare services today.
Have you used Zoom for Telehealth for doctor/patient video conferencing yet? Whether it was a Zoom telemedicine service you delivered, or one facilitated by another platform, I imagine that the advantages of remote healthcare weren’t lost on you. We’ll look at some of these advantages below, as well as matters like Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) compliant video conferencing and the role of interpretation in delivering Zoom health care services.
Zoom and Telehealth: Compatibility
Zoom telehealth services are allowing medical teams to connect with patients safely and professionally. You can talk face to face with patients via video call without any risk of either party catching COVID as a result of the interaction. This has proven invaluable in attempting to slow the spread of the virus, with patients waiting for appointments in their own homes rather than stuffy, crowded waiting rooms.
I should mention, by the way, that if you’re not familiar with how telehealth services work, or what the differences are between telehealth and telemedicine, you can click the link below to find out more.
In terms of compatibility, Zoom for Telehealth and healthcare provision go hand-in-hand. There are a number of reasons for this, so allow me to walk you through some of them.
Read more: Telehealth: An Efficient Healthcare Alternative During Pandemics
Ease of Use
The developers at Zoom have clearly paid plenty of attention to the user experience. The platform is easy to use, meaning that even those who aren’t comfortable with video conferencing technology should be up and running in no time.
Zoom Call Quality
Successful Zoom healthcare provision relies on those who are taking part in a call being able to see and hear each other clearly. Zoom certainly ticks the right boxes in this respect. HD video and audio calls deliver high-quality connectivity, meaning that doctors can rely on Zoom to chat to their patients ‘face to face’ without important details being lost due to stutters or gaps in the call. This applies even in low-bandwidth environments.
When it comes to using Zoom health care services, the only real limit is your imagination. The call quality and ease of use that Zoom delivers mean that you don’t only have to use it for one-to-one consultations. As well as remotely diagnosing patients, you can also use Zoom to screen symptomatic patients remotely, deliver training, provide psychological support, coordinate the supply of equipment and more.
You can even add annotations on a shared screen so that they are visible to all meeting participants, which further adds to Zoom’s flexibility. Plus, Zoom for Telehealth is set up for desktop, mobile and conference room systems, so you can deliver services from a range of settings. Little touches like these mean that Zoom telehealth services can quickly become invaluable as part of your healthcare provision.
Do you need a record of a meeting? How about a video of a training session? With Zoom you can record both audio and video at the click of a button. Handy for all manner of situations.
After a spate of ‘Zoom bombing’ incidents in spring (i.e. people crashing into calls that weren’t password-protected), Zoom has paid particular attention to security matters. So much so that you can relax in the knowledge that your Zoom telemedicine delivery can be HIPAA (signed BAA) compliant thanks to encryption at the application layer.
Zoom integrates with a number of healthcare information technology systems. Do you use Epic? If so, you can launch Zoom video calls from within the Epic video visit workflow, as well as documenting in Epic while the video consultation takes place.
Zoom also delivers a range of medical device integrations, putting far-end camera control and other abilities at your fingertips.
Setting Up Telehealth Services with Zoom
Are you ready to give Zoom for Telehealth a go? Your patients and peers will likely thank you for it, if you are. First, though, you need to take care of some practical and technical details. Let me outline them for you.
Coordinate with Your Fellow Health Professionals
What will your Zoom telemedicine services look like? Who will use them? And how? While it’s likely you’ll expand your list of services as you uncover the software’s potential, you’ll need a basic outline of what you want to achieve before you begin to set up Zoom for Telehealth. As such, it’s time to talk to your colleagues and map out what you need.
Buy a Zoom Subscription
Your patients won’t need to subscribe to Zoom, but you will. Zoom healthcare services are available in prepaid one-, two- and three-year subscriptions, so that you can select the Zoom cost that meets your needs. As the ‘default host’ for Zoom telehealth meetings, you’ll need a Pro licence.
Think About Your Software Integration
The records of over 50% of patients in the US (and 2.5% of patients worldwide) are held on Epic. Understandably, Zoom has focused on Epic when it comes to software integration, so I’m going to use that as the example below. You can speak to Zoom’s support team if you use an alternative, but this process should give you at least an indication of the steps you need to take to set up a Zoom telemedicine service.
Installing and Configuring Zoom and Epic
First off, let your Epic admin know what you’re up to. They will need to assist you with this process.
With your Zoom fees all paid, you can start your installation. Find the Epic app in the Zoom Marketplace and install it to get started. It’s then time to build the FDR links in Epic – and this is where your Epic admin comes in. There’s a whole host of configuration tasks to complete and you’ll need both the right permissions and the right technical know-how to do so.
With the configuration take care of, you will be ready to start using Zoom for Telehealth. You can launch a Zoom call from within Epic and start enjoying the benefits that it delivers for your organisation and for your patients.
HIPAA Compliance and Zoom
Is Zoom HIPAA compliant? If you caught the press reports of high-profile Zoom bombing incidents in the spring, which led to a flurry of schools suspending their use of Zoom, then this question is probably top of mind.
But Zoom is a fast-moving company, and much has changed over the course of 2020. Zoom does indeed provide HIPAA compliant video, so healthcare practitioners can rest easy, knowing that sensitive patient data is protected.
Zoom HIPAA compliance is delivered through data in motion being encrypted at the application layer, using Advanced Encryption Standard (AES). This means that Zoom telehealth providers can achieve HIPAA (signed BAA) and PIPEDA/PHIPA compliance with ease.
Integrating Interpretation to Your Zoom Telehealth Service
Having spent the last 13 or so years delivering language services, the multilingual potential for Zoom telemedicine services was naturally one of the first things that occurred to me when looking at telehealth in detail.
When it comes to languages Zoom specialists are available to provide simultaneous interpretation in real time. To make best use of your Zoom interpretation services, you’ll need to think about which languages you are likely to need, then follow these steps to start providing telehealth services in them:
Subscribe to Zoom
You’ll need some kind of Zoom premium account in order to offer interpretation services as part of your telehealth package. A Business, Education or Enterprise account will suffice, as will a Zoom Pro account with the Webinar plan added on.
Set up Your Language Interpretation Requirements
You can set up the languages you need via the Zoom web portal. Nine languages show by default, but you can add as many others as you need (though use is limited to five custom languages per video call).
Add Zoom Interpreters
You can add interpreters when scheduling a Zoom meeting. Again, you can do this in the Zoom web portal. Simply add as many interpreters as you need and then save your changes.
Host Your Meeting in Multiple Languages
With your interpreters in place, you’re ready to start delivering telehealth services in multiple languages. Note that your interpreters will be able to see the telehealth video conferencing participants, as well as hear them.
The interpretation is delivered at 80% volume, with the original speaker at 20%. Overlaying the audio in this way means that the listener can still hear the original speaker’s tone, while the interpreter delivers their words.
The Future of Telemedicine and Other Platforms
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed so many aspects of our daily lives, and many of those changes look set to outlast the pandemic itself. Many shoppers have become used to the convenience of buying their groceries online; educators have expanded their reach to connect with students outside of their local area; and telehealth providers have established more accessible services that reach greater numbers of patients.
But when the pandemic ends, will we stick with these new habits or revert to the way things were before? I think it’s likely to be a bit of both. Some grocery shoppers will be eager to get back to the in-store experience; others will stick with the convenience of being able to fill the fridge without leaving the house. Some educators will continue to sell their services online, while others will be keen to get back to in-person delivery.
And when it comes to the future of telemedicine? Again, I think we’ll see a mixed bag. Some healthcare providers will have run with its potential; others will have used it as a stopgap measure that they’re ready to drop again as soon as some kind of normality returns.
I actually think that’s a bit of a shame – it feels like something of a missed opportunity to see telemedicine video conference calls as purely a tool to tide us over until business as usual resumes. As we looked at above, the flexibility that’s inherent to Zoom health care provision means that it can connect with patients in new ways. The interpretation functionality, for example, means that doctors can connect with patients who would struggle with the language requirements for an in-person appointment.
Zoom telemedicine appointments are also ideal for those with limited mobility or who feel too unwell to visit the doctor. And, of course, they are an excellent way to limit the spread of infections. I don’t just mean the Zoom coronavirus benefits here. Using Zoom health services for remote appointments means that other airborne illnesses such as flu are less likely to spread as well.
So, when it comes to the future of telemedicine, it looks like Zoom should be around for a while yet, even once the COVID-19 pandemic is (hopefully) brought under control through mass vaccination. I suspect that we’ll also see the rise of other contenders in this space. After all, Zoom is just one of the best video conferencing platforms out there, not the only one. It looks like virtual healthcare of this nature is going to be a part of our future for a long time.