About Josh Orueta

Josh Orueta, our Chief Technology Officer, joined Bridge Patient Portal in 2013 as a product owner. Previously he worked with Electronic Medical Records (EMR) companies, major labs, and Practice Management (PM) software companies in the US. Josh leads a talented team of developers to enhance Bridge's patient engagement solutions continually.

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Josh Orueta, our Chief Technology Officer, joined Bridge Patient Portal in 2013 as a product owner. Previously he worked with Electronic Medical Records (EMR) companies, major labs, and Practice Management (PM) software companies in the US. Josh leads a talented team of developers to enhance Bridge's patient engagement solutions continually.

The Future of Healthcare Telemedicine Solutions

Healthcare Telemedicine Solutions

What has led to the boom in telemedicine platforms?

During 2020 the growth of healthcare telemedicine solutions was propelled by the pandemic and enabled by new CMS policies supporting payment for video visits[¹]. In addition, the United States government acknowledged the need for telemedicine services’ through The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) COVID-19 telehealth Program. The program provided funds to healthcare providers in order to purchase devices and software for providing their patients with telemedicine services. Additionally, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act[²] ensures that patients aren’t required to pay for telemedicine consultations related to COVID-19 testing and treatment. And the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) permits healthcare providers to use non-HIPAA-compliant video conferencing software to provide telemedicine during the pandemic[³]. Medical practitioners using these solutions will not be subject to penalties for HIPAA violations as long as they are using telemedicine correctly, ensuring patient safety and satisfaction at all times.

Recommended reading: The Rise Of Telehealth Software During COVID-19

Types of telemedicine software

There has been a rise in telemedicine companies that provide consultations using their select physician network. MDLive® is an example of such a company; they provide users with healthcare professionals 24 hours a day by phone or online video. Insurance companies[⁴] are partnering with these providers, such as MDLive®, which enables the insurance company to circumvent the existing patient-provider relationships to likely reduce the cost to the insurance company. However, the problem is that this removes the important relationship the patient has with their primary care provider and is, therefore, a threat to the very existence of the typical “brick & mortar” practice.

If a healthcare provider does not have telemedicine software, patients may be forced to search for one who does outside of their primary care provider’s network. A recent study by the Mayo Clinic®[⁵] found that patients value the ability to build a clinician-patient relationship through telemedicine. Although convenient, these telemedicine platforms may not guarantee that a patient will contact the same practitioner visit after visit.

It’s preferable for healthcare organizations to use healthcare telemedicine solutions that provide their physicians with a means to conduct virtual visits with their existing patients. Keeping telemedicine in-house benefits the patient’s experience and reduces the chance of significant revenue loss.

In order to quickly meet the telemedicine needs of patients, providers have been known to use non-HIPAA-compliant solutions such as Apple FaceTime®, Facebook Messenger™, Skype™, WhatsApp®, and Zoom®. These solutions allow organizations to provide telemedicine via their physician network, but HIPAA compliance is called into question with many of these. Healthcare organizations will not be able to offer telemedicine services in this manner indefinitely; the HIPAA waiver[⁶] will eventually expire. In any case, there is an urgent need to launch in-house healthcare telemedicine solutions and to make advancing telemedicine services a priority.

Healthcare telemedicine solution

Most wanted features of telemedicine

Healthcare telemedicine solutions shouldn’t be so far detached from an organization’s normal workflow. Familiarity will help providers and patients adopt a new telemedicine solution easily.

Features of telemedicine should allow patients to do the following:

  • Self-schedule telemedicine appointments online via a medical scheduling software
  • Get a notification to start/join their telemedicine visit
  • Receive guidance on what to expect for their first visit, including explaining hardware setup
  • Access a virtual waiting room
  • Message or chat with staff to troubleshoot audio/video issues
  • Interact with providers using both video and audio elements, ideally with a telephone call in support, which could also facilitate help from an interpreter
  • Share images and files during the telemedicine visit

An ideal telemedicine solution should integrate seamlessly with clinics’ Electronic Health Record (EHR), Revenue Cycle Management (RCM), or Practice Management (PM) source system(s). Healthcare providers should be able to share data bidirectionally between the source systems and their telemedicine platform, or the correct staff added to make up for interoperability gaps.

Recommended reading: Telehealth vs. Telemedicine

Healthcare telemedicine solutions in 2021 and beyond

During 2020 there was a significant growth of telemedicine; now, healthcare organizations wonder how funding, reimbursement, and usage will continue.

Healthcare providers will no longer be able to leverage common non-HIPAA-compliant video conferencing platforms for e-consultations as the HIPAA waiver expires. In order to keep up with enduring telemedicine demand, healthcare providers will need to implement HIPAA-compliant telemedicine software.

Previously, health care providers experienced difficulties in receiving reimbursement for telemedicine services as different states charged for telemedicine in entirely different ways. In 2020 most payers now pay for a telemedicine visit as if it were an in-person visit, and this payment practice is expected to continue.

The year 2020 saw the meteoric rise of telemedicine. Virtual healthcare usage by both patients and providers is expected to sustain from here on out. By leveraging telemedicine as part of a more comprehensive patient engagement solution, providers can meet patient demand for the digital solutions they’ve now come to expect.

DISCLAIMER: All product and company names are trademarks™ or registered® trademarks of their respective holders. Bridge Patient Portal is not affiliated, endorsed, or sponsored in any way to the service providers mentioned in this article.

  1. www.cms.gov. (, 2020). MEDICARE TELEMEDICINE HEALTH CARE PROVIDER FACT SHEET | CMS. [online] Available at: https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/fact-sheets/medicare-telemedicine-health-care-provider-fact-sheet.
  2. Lowey, N.M. (2020). Text – H.R.6201 – 116th Congress (2019-2020): Families First Coronavirus Response Act. [online] www.congress.gov. Available at: https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/6201/text.
  3. 6. Rights (OCR), O. for C. (2020). Notification of Enforcement Discretion for telehealth. [online] HHS.gov. Available at: https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-professionals/special-topics/emergency-preparedness/notification-enforcement-discretion-telehealth/index.html.
  4. Japsen, B. (n.d.). Cigna Expands MDLive telemedicine Partnership To Primary Care. [online] Forbes. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/brucejapsen/2020/01/13/cigna-expands-mdlive-telehealth-partnership-to-primary-care/ [Accessed 30 Nov. 2020].
  5. Elliott, T., Tong, I., Sheridan, A., and Lown, B.A. (2020). Beyond Convenience: Patients’ Perceptions of Physician Interactional Skills and Compassion via Telemedicine. Mayo Clinic Proceedings: Innovations, Quality & Outcomes, [online] 4(3), pp.305–314. Available at: https://mcpiqojournal.org/article/S2542-4548(20)30075-8/abstract
Josh Orueta, our Chief Technology Officer, joined Bridge Patient Portal in 2013 as a product owner. Previously he worked with Electronic Medical Records (EMR) companies, major labs, and Practice Management (PM) software companies in the US. Josh leads a talented team of developers to enhance Bridge’s patient engagement solutions continually.

Why Telemedicine Software Failed Before COVID-19

Updated on January 1, 2021.

Telemedicine is the use of technology for remote patient monitoring and medical consultations. Before COVID-19, some healthcare organizations saw telemedicine software as a logical response to ballooning healthcare expenditures and an ever-increasing physician availability shortage. During the pandemic, it is no longer just an option to consider but a necessity. Integrated with patient portals, patient engagement mobile apps, remote patient monitoring software, and health tracking apps, telemedicine is also part of a growing market for patient engagement solutions.
However, going virtual with healthcare has not been straightforward. Before COVID-19, telemedicine experienced many hurdles, including lags in adoption, reimbursement, privacy concerns, and health policy barriers.

Recommended: Telehealth vs. Telemedicine

Telemedicine software adoption: generating physician buy-in

Many private companies specialize in telemedicine software, such as virtual care applications or 24-hour “ask a doctor” services. These telemedicine companies have only skyrocketed in number due to COVID-19. The other option is for a physician who has regular appointments to check in with patients remotely via a telemedicine portal or a similar application. In this case, many physicians don’t want to change how they practice medicine. An ideal telemedicine software solution should mimic the healthcare organization’s original workflow and integrate seamlessly with their Electronic Health Record (EHR), Revenue Cycle Management (RCM), and Practice Management (PM) software.

Adoption: developing accessible telemedicine portals

Patients with chronic conditions that require frequent check-ins can benefit tremendously from telemedicine portals. Older and typically less tech-savvy seniors, for example, may find it difficult to connect or use remote patient monitoring devices between office visits. (30%[¹] of elderly patients said they were uncomfortable using telemedicine solutions during COVID-19.) On-screen interaction may not be easy for those with limited vision. This makes it difficult to engage patients. These obstacles can be overcome with accessible technologies, and health IT professionals should focus on this.

telemedicine software
Privacy: HIPAA Compliant Remote Patient Monitoring and Consultation

In telemedicine, personal health information is sent in several ways, including text, audio, video, images, and real-time remote patient data from sensors. This can burden healthcare providers who must comply with HIPAA privacy rules. While many telecommunications tools we use daily may not meet these standards (video, email, SMS), there are specialized platforms that do — including Bridge Patient Portal.

Policy: Taking Advantage of Interstate Licensing

States have different requirements about where a physician needs to be licensed to provide telemedicine services: In some cases, it’s the state where the practice is located. In others, it’s the state where the patient is located. Twenty-eight states[²] and one territory have now introduced or enacted Interstate Medical Licensure Compact legislation, which will make it easier for physicians to practice in several states. As more states join, medical practices may need to be guided on how to get their healthcare teams licensed.

Recommended: The Rise Of Telehealth Software During COVID-19

Policy: Addressing Different Reimbursement Rules Across States

Reimbursement is another area of inconsistency: Rules about which telemedicine services need to be covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance vary from state to state. This is being considered at the federal level. During COVID-19, patients are not required to pay for telemedicine services pertaining to the coronavirus. Many payers have adapted their policies to include coverage[³] for telemedicine services. See how the government assists healthcare providers in providing telehealth services, read Bridge’s Guide To The FCC Telehealth Fund.

Previous hurdles preventing telemedicine are being bulldozed through to ensure patients receive care during the pandemic. Telemedicine is more accessible and effective for both physicians and patients now more than ever.

Discover how telemedicine has changed due to COVID-19. Read: The Future of Healthcare Telemedicine Solutions.

  1. mHealthIntelligence (2020). Surveys Suggest Seniors Aren’t Using Telehealth During COVID-19 Crisis. [online] mHealthIntelligence. Available at: https://mhealthintelligence.com/news/surveys-suggest-seniors-arent-using-telehealth-during-covid-19-crisis [Accessed 21 Dec. 2020].
  2. CompHealth. (2020). Interstate Medical Licensure Compact States List [And Guide for 2020]. [online] Available at: https://comphealth.com/resources/interstate-medical-licensure-compact/.
  3. Affairs (ASPA), A.S. for P. (2020). Telehealth: Delivering Care Safely During COVID-19. [online] HHS.gov. Available at: https://www.hhs.gov/coronavirus/telehealth/index.html#billing [Accessed 21 Dec. 2020].
Josh Orueta, our Chief Technology Officer, joined Bridge Patient Portal in 2013 as a product owner. Previously he worked with Electronic Medical Records (EMR) companies, major labs, and Practice Management (PM) software companies in the US. Josh leads a talented team of developers to enhance Bridge’s patient engagement solutions continually.

How to Send Automated Medical Appointment Reminders Without Jeopardizing Patients’ Data Security

Updated on August 14, 2020.

Sending HIPAA compliant appointment reminders has been shown to decrease appointment “no shows” and has the potential to enhance the patient-provider relationship. However, given the concern about data breaches, automated appointment reminder software remains an underutilized feature of patient portals. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, medical appointment reminders are allowed under HIPAA privacy rules, which state, “Appointment reminders are considered part of the treatment of an individual and, therefore, can be made without authorization.” This statement means that providers don’t need to worry about breaching HIPAA while sending a patient appointment reminder.

To ensure that you and your patients are protected, Bridge recommends you do the following when launching a patient appointment reminder software:

  • Ensure your NPP (Notice of Privacy Practices) is updated and includes information about opting-in for appointment reminders by SMS and/or email.
  • The NPP should be explicitly clear and state something similar to “You’ll be receiving automated SMS text message/email reminders about your upcoming appointments. If you would rather opt-out, please notify us.”
  • Have patients verify their contact information, including their phone number, regularly.
  • Consider an additional opt-in outside NPP; many people do not read the NPP, and texting appointment data may be unacceptable to some people.
  • Give patients the option for a preferred method of contact, or at the least, the ability to opt-out of specific outreach methods.

appointment reminder software

Outreach methods

  • IVR reminders. Interactive Voice Response-based calls also support user-inputted responses (i.e., “Press 1 to confirm, or 2 to cancel your upcoming appointment”).
  • SMS reminders
  • Email reminders
  • Push notifications
  • Bidirectional patient messaging

What to Include in (and Exclude from) HIPAA Compliant Medical Appointment Reminders

When sending a HIPAA text message appointment reminder, it is best to avoid being too specific. Keep in mind that practice names can infer types of treatment or conditions. For example, “Oncology Clinic” clearly indicates that the patient has cancer.

Generic reminders include:

  • Appointment date and time
  • Provider’s first and last name
  • Location of the appointment

medical appointment reminders

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By using these tips, you can get the most out of your patient portal and have peace of mind that you do not compromise your patient’s right to privacy or cause any data breaches.

By centralizing a patient opt-in/out preferences in a single system, you become more compliant, avoid the over-sending of messages, and can take greater advantage of these communication tools.
Once patients have received an automated appointment reminder, there are several responses a patient can choose. If a patient can’t make an appointment, they can reschedule through a patient self-scheduling software. This software provides patients with a means to contact their provider without calling into the office. Self-scheduling software ensures that a patient can work their way through the proper clinical screening and select from conflict-free times within the patient scheduler. A self-scheduling solution is built to handle complex scheduling decision trees and is adaptable to any provider group.

appointment reminder software

Features and benefits of Bridge’s patient appointment reminder software

Through extensive integrations into many of the industry’s most prominent EHR/PM systems, Bridge’s appointment reminder software can send HIPAA compliant appointment reminders using real-time appointment data. Our comprehensive appointment reminder software uses known patient preferences to notify patients of appointments on their preferred platform (Email, SMS, In-Portal, Push Notification Via Mobile App) and in their selected language.

  • Customizable Messages. Providers are able to send mass messages as well as messages customized for a specific patient.
  • Bilingual. All messages are available in English/Spanish.
  • HIPAA-Compliant. Bridge offers a HIPAA compliant patient portal, which secures Protected Health Information (PHI).
  • Push Notification Capabilities. Send alerts to patients via their mobile devices.
  • EHR/PM System Integrated. Appointment data is sourced straight from the EHR/PM System, such us Greenway Health™, Centricity™, and NextGen®.
  • Custom Triggered Notifications. Trigger specific notifications for different types of appointments.

There are multiple ways to ensure patient data security when sending automated medical appointment reminders. One way is to make patients aware of automatic reminders via an opt-in within the notice of privacy practices. Healthcare organizations should be conscious of a patient’s preferred method of contact. In order to maintain HIPAA compliance, all messages sent to patients, including appointment reminders, should not include any protected health information.

Josh Orueta, our Chief Technology Officer, joined Bridge Patient Portal in 2013 as a product owner. Previously he worked with Electronic Medical Records (EMR) companies, major labs, and Practice Management (PM) software companies in the US. Josh leads a talented team of developers to enhance Bridge’s patient engagement solutions continually.