Bridge Patient Portal provides Addiction Labs with a HIPAA compliant way for their patients to view COVID-19 test results.
Dallas, TX – October 21, 2020 – Bridge Patient Portal provides Addiction Labs with a means to quickly provide patients with their COVID-19 test results in a HIPAA compliant way. Addiction Labs lends its laboratory facilities to assist in COVID testing. Currently, patients nationwide are experiencing significant delays in receiving COVID test results, which negates efforts to prevent further infections. One major factor contributing to these delays is ensuring that results are communicated in a HIPAA compliant way.
Once Addiction Labs processes the FDA – EUA approved PCR test, the patient receives an email stating that they can access their results through the portal. Patients can then log in to the lab patient portal to view their results. No PHI (Protected Health Information) is sent via email; patients need to confirm their identity before viewing their results, ensuring HIPAA compliance. Lab results are provided to the patient portal via an HL7 ORU (Observation Result) and populate data within the portal as a positive or negative result.
“Bridge Patient Portal has provided our patients a quick, simplified method to obtain their COVID-19 results during the pandemic,” said Shannon Myers, Addiction Labs Operations director. “Prior to this technology, we had to manually encrypt every test result and send it to the patients individually by email, which could take hours to complete each day. This technology is truly a time saver and ensures our patients get their results as quickly as possible.”
About Bridge Patient Portal
Bridge Patient Portal is an enterprise patient portal and engagement solution that empowers patients with self-service tools to better manage their care. The Bridge Patient Portal platform is client-branded and ideal for health organizations seeking to replace their existing EHR portals or connect to disparate EHR environments with a single, vendor-neutral patient portal platform available on desktop, iOS, and Android. Founded in 2012 and headquartered in Dallas, Texas, Bridge Patient Portal has installations in many healthcare’s leading clinics, hospitals, and health systems nationwide. For more information, visit https://www.bridgepatientportal.com/ or call 800-467-2321.
About Addiction Labs
Addiction Labs is a premium toxicology lab owned by American Addiction Centers. Since 2013, Addiction Labs has specialized in providing laboratory services for substance abuse and mental health facilities nationwide. Addiction Labs keeps its partners at the forefront of clinical excellence with its deep expertise, agile operations, and precise, high-end technology that translates to more reliable, insightful, and personalized solutions. For more information, visit https://addictionlabs.com/ or call 615-678-5973 or 800-772-0636.
In 2020 the world has adopted a new set of social norms from COVID-19 that have drastically impacted the way we interact with others and our physical environments. As people everywhere take precautions against contracting the virus, by social distancing, we’re witnessing a major shift in consumer behavior. For instance, the retail industry has experienced a boom in online shopping and curbside pickup orders, which rose by 208 percent — and is expected to continue long after the pandemic. If consumers are worried about contracting COVID-19 in retail settings, you can imagine the fear triggered by visiting healthcare facilities is even stronger. Patients have been advised to avoid in-person doctor’s visits if possible and to opt for virtual or telemedicine tools when available. (Even patients with coronavirus symptoms have been asked not to seek medical care unless symptoms worsen or become severe.) While telemedicine access has significantly expanded during this time, many patients must still visit healthcare providers in person. This has forced healthcare organizations to restructure their protocols and offices for point-of-care.
The Dangers of the Traditional Waiting Room
The traditional waiting room poses a significant threat now more than ever as patients and staff come into physical contact with infected persons, and touch shared surfaces and/or devices that may be contaminated, these spaces can be a breeding grounds for the spread of COVID-19. It may have never been good practice to place sick and injured people in close proximity to one another in the same room. While it may have aided practice staff to perform intake and better track their patients, it’s no longer a viable solution, and healthcare organizations must seek a safer alternative. Virtual waiting rooms also referred to as curbside check-ins, mobile waiting rooms, and zero-contact waiting rooms, allow patients to check-in for an appointment on their mobile device and remain in their vehicle or nearby area until an exam room is available. Additionally, they offer healthcare organizations a sustainable strategy to replace the traditional waiting room experience.
How To Implement a Virtual Waiting Room
The patient care journey surrounding virtual waiting rooms can begin with an appointment reminder sent an hour or two before a scheduled visit. Further information about new protocols and safety measures should be included in these communications, so patients know what to expect and how to navigate their visit. More specifically, useful information that should be communicated includes:
Conditions that must be met before the appointment
Pre-registration and/or intake forms
Time and location of an appointment
Areas for waiting (this is usually the parking lot)
What to bring (including mandating the use of facemasks)
How to check-in (often through a hyperlink that notifies the medical practice of arrival)
Once the patient arrives and the link is clicked, staff members are alerted, and patient tracking commences. Patient tracking allows staff members to keep tabs on:
Under/over utilized rooms
Peak times by area
“Healthcare providers are moving away from the traditional waiting room,” said James Hermann, CEO of PatientTrak, the leading patient flow and engagement software provider to the healthcare industry. “Patients sign-in using their mobile phones and receive text messages from staff when they are ready for the patient to enter the facility.” Patients can perform online self-check-in, where they provide the practice with their personal information, medical insurance information, and chief complaint.
After this process has been completed, and the healthcare provider is available, an SMS is sent to the patient with instructions on which exam room to visit. Clear digital communications are vital during this process and negate intervention that might be required from practice staff.
Virtual waiting rooms and patient tracking are becoming the new norm as they help medical organizations provide their patients with a safe and seamless experience. Now is the time to adopt and advertise these digital solutions to deliver patients the experience they expect before their point-of-care.
It can be argued that emotional support from loved ones during illness or injury can speed up the rate of recovery. But this is not a luxury medical professionals can afford their patients in the current environment. The stress of isolation not only takes its toll on the patient but also the patient’s loved ones. The inability to see and connect with hospitalized friends and family members in-person can significantly increase rates of stress and anxiety.
Healthcare professionals are forced to carry out a balancing act of doing what’s right for the patient and what’s right for the general population. Healthcare organizations should try to provide patients with a stress-free environment and peace of mind for the patient’s loved ones. Below we discuss the best zero visitor practices to maintain patient satisfaction during COVID-19.
Communicate the Zero Visitor Policy
In order to avoid any surprises, ensure your patients are well aware of the zero visitor policy far in advance of their visit to your facility. The policy should be communicated in such a way that it is easy to understand by all types of patients. Healthcare organizations should communicate the policy numerous times and in different ways.
Methods include clearly stating the policy through:
Your website, patient portal, and social media channels
SMS/email before the appointment
Signage within your facility
Allow For Direct Communication
Hospital isolation can be taxing on anyone, but more so for the young, elderly, or people with disabilities. It’s essential to provide patients with a means to garner support from their loved ones when visitation is not possible. Provide your patients with a means to communicate with their loved ones directly. Encourage patients to bring WiFi-enabled devices and their charging cables and allow for personal devices within patients’ rooms. When a patient is required to stay for a length of time within a facility, which is normally the case for those recovering from COVID-19, “face-to-face” communication is vital to maintain strong mental health. The use of video may typically be prohibited, but exceptions should be made to allow patients to video call with their family. Exceptions may be made under the provision that a staff member is present to ensure the privacy of other patients within the ward/room or video calls may only be permitted at a specific time. This communication method allows patients and relatives to communicate in real-time, easing both parties’ apprehensions.
Establish A Reliable Communication System
Healthcare organizations should provide safe, practical communication methods to patients and their loved ones during this time. Text messaging family members during care is a convenient and effective way to communicate a patient’s status and progression. HIPAA-compliant text messaging allows staff members to securely communicate whether a patient is progressing normally or not, which keeps family members informed while they wait off-premise.
PatientTrak’s text messaging system is an industry-leading solution that helps keep patients, family members, and staff informed during hospital stays. During check-in, the relative’s contact number is recorded as well as their relation to the patient. Initially, PatientTrak’s communication system updated family members on how a patient was progressing during surgery. PaientTrak’s system can now provide family members with real-time updates on a patient’s stay within a healthcare facility.
The system also provides staff members with logistical messages, such as the progress of a patient throughout the facility and how long they may be waiting for care. Their functionality also notifies patients of where they should go and when the practitioner is ready for their appointment. Messaging functionality should only be available to specific users, depending on their authorization.
Most messages can be sent automatically via a predetermined template, saving staff time while still providing valuable information to relatives. Automatic messaging helps prevent any human errors/typos and HIPAA slip-ups. Staff members have the ability to create a message ad hoc if further information needs to be conveyed.
During this difficult time, it is possible to maintain a patient’s safety while avoiding the mental health complications that arise during isolation within a healthcare facility. Implementing zero visitor best practices not only improves the patient experience, but it helps prevent the spread of COVID-19. With text message and paging systems, healthcare organizations can keep everyone informed of a patient’s care while mitigating the need for a constant stream of visitors.
The COVID-19 pandemic is changing the way healthcare professionals are interacting with their patients. At the height of the pandemic, healthcare practices of all types have turned to telehealth/telemedicine to interact with patients remotely. Telehealth software use is being driven by necessity since patients are advised not to physically go to a medical clinic or any other healthcare facility due to the risk of COVID-19 exposure. But not every healthcare specialty lends itself well to telehealth. In certain scenarios, patients need to see their providers in person.
As government and healthcare officials are slowly relaxing the restrictions regarding visiting healthcare offices, the risk of COVID-19 exposure is still present. Patients are now more aware of how the virus spreads and the risk of being infected by contact with people, places, and objects (including pens, clipboards, and shared devices like tablets and kiosks). It’s preferable that patients use their own devices with the aid of a mobile app patient portal to complete the patient intake process.
The Virtual Waiting Room
Some officials want to prevent the use of the traditional waiting room as much as possible since forcing patients to sit in a room in close proximity to others is a breeding ground for viruses. For instance, in New York City, patients are advised to remain in their car until it’s time for their appointment as contact with potentially contaminated objects should be limited at all costs. Because of new protocols enacted across cities, for how patients receive in-person care and limit exposure to contamination, a patient intake option that can be completed on one’s own devices via a mobile app patient portal would be beneficial.
Patient Portal For Medical Clinics
Healthcare providers are seeking a solution to complete intake forms, gather patient clinical histories, and other documentation virtually. A patient portal for medical clinics can provide patients with a means to complete necessary forms online before a consultation, (leading to a better in-person experience) and deliver more efficiency to doctors and medical staff by cutting down wait times. Patient portal solutions are also valuable because healthcare practices can utilize them to inform patients of new policies before a visit to the office and disseminate educational materials. Some examples include the requirement for patients to wear masks during visits, instructions for virtual check-in, the protocol for reporting COVID-19 symptoms prior to arrival, where patients should wait before an appointment, precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, etc. HIPAA compliant appointment reminders, broadcast messaging, and bidirectional patient messaging are pivotal in communicating new protocols for visiting a provider.
The healthcare landscape has drastically changed since the onslaught of COVID-19, which has forced medical practices and healthcare organizations to change how they operate to meet the evolving needs of patients and prioritize public health. Consider the importance of integrating a patient portal for your medical organization. Contact us to learn more.
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) COVID-19 Telehealth Program authorized by the CARES Act will provide $200 million in funding to support healthcare providers in offering telehealth services to patients during the coronavirus pandemic. The COVID-19 Telehealth Program aims to fully fund telecommunications services for eligible healthcare providers. Funds can be used to purchase devices and software needed to provide vital telehealth services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This support will continue until the program’s funds have been depleted or the COVID-19 pandemic has ended.
Who qualifies for the FCC Telehealth Fund?
The COVID-19 Telehealth Program is open to healthcare providers/organizations that treat patients within the USA. The FCC Telehealth Program is limited to nonprofit and public healthcare providers, including:
Post-secondary educational institutions offering healthcare instruction, teaching hospitals, and medical schools
Community healthcare centers or healthcare centers providing healthcare to migrants
Local health departments or agencies
Community mental health centers
Rural health clinics
Skilled nursing facilities
Associations of healthcare providers consisting of one or more entities falling into the first seven categories
The goal is to allocate funding to providers that serve areas which have been the most affected by COVID-19, and where support will be the most impactful on addressing the current healthcare challenge.
Participants are chosen based on responses to the following criteria:
Conditions to be treated
Goals and objectives to be achieved with the funding
Timeline for the deployment of the proposed service(s) or devices
Metrics that the applicant will use to help measure the impact of the funded services and devices
Geographic area and population served by the applicant
Whether funding will help high-risk and vulnerable patients
What products qualify for the FCC Telehealth Program?
The FCC Telehealth Program will support eligible healthcare providers to purchase telecommunications, information services, and connected devices required to provide telehealth services at this time.
Eligible services and connected devices for funding include:
Telecommunications and broadband connectivity services for healthcare providers or their patients.
Information services and online connected platforms for remote patient monitoring, patient-reported outcomes, the transfer of patient images and data, and video consultation.
Connected devices/equipment such as tablets, smartphones, or other devices to receive care at home (e.g., broadband-enabled blood pressure monitors, pulse monitors, oxygen monitors), or telemedicine kiosks/carts for healthcare providers.
Vendors of eligible services and devices are not eligible to apply for funding. The program is also not intended to fund the development of new websites, systems, or platforms.
How to acquire funding?
Obtain an FCC Registration Number (FRN) from the Commission Registration System (CORES), as well as a CORES username and password.
Obtain an eligibility determination from the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC) by filing FCC Form 460 through My Portal on USAC’s webpage.
Due to the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) that was first reported in Wuhan, China, on December 31st, 2019, the public is turning to telehealth to prevent further spread of the virus. Telehealth is the use of electronic information and telecommunications technologies to support and promote long-distance clinical health care. Telehealth software allows healthcare providers to conduct consultations with patients while both parties maintain a safe distance, preventing the spread of the virus.
Payers & Telehealth
Before the COVID-19 crisis, some private health insurance providers covered telehealth consultations, though this significantly varied by the payer and across states. If telehealth consultations were covered, they were usually at a lower reimbursement rate.
Medicare would cover telehealth if the patient lived in a “health professional shortage area” that is outside a metropolitan area. Medicare also required that patients go to a designated healthcare facility to initiate a video visit. After the initial e-visit, the patient and their local provider could connect using telehealth technology. Video visits from home, or anywhere that was not within a designated “originating site,” were not covered under Medicare.
Medicaid’s telehealth coverage was based on state laws, as the federal Medicaid statute does not recognize telehealth as a distinct service. Telehealth was viewed as a cost-effective alternative to the more traditional face-to-face way of providing medical care. Fifty states and Washington, DC, provided reimbursement for some form of live video in Medicaid fee-for-service.
Families First Coronavirus Response Act & Telehealth
Due to the COVID-19, healthcare authorities have urged the public and healthcare organizations to make use of telehealth software. The federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act passed on March 18th, 2020, requires payers to waive the amount an individual would pay for telehealth. USA President Donald Trump announced that “Medicare patients can now visit any doctor by phone or videoconference at no additional cost, including with commonly used services like FaceTime and Skype.” During the pandemic, health care providers will not be subject to penalties for violations of the HIPAA Privacy, Security, and Breach Notification Rules that occur in the good faith provision of telehealth.
Barriers that previously interfered with the use of telehealth software have been removed during this time. With the recent passing of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, patients are not required to pay for telehealth consultations related to COVID-19 testing and treatment. Additionally, public knowledge of telehealth software capabilities has significantly increased. Patients are now seeking alternatives to reduce their costs associated with COVID-19 testing and treatment, and will likely become accustomed to the convenience of receiving care via telehealth. Furthermore, the new Interoperability and Patient Access final rule legislation promotes secure and straightforward access to personal health information by patients through ubiquitous technologies such as smartphones. And the trend in mobile app implementation by healthcare providers will further drive the adoption of telehealth.
Telehealth & Healthcare Organizations
Telehealth may seem like a new concept fueled by COVID-19, but in reality, telehealth software companies have been around for many years and are growing in popularity. (The expectation is that the changes as mentioned above will rapidly drive growth.)
CareClix was founded in 2010 and works with qualified practicing physicians to provide a wide range of telehealth services. CareClix accepts Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurance plans.
MDLive was founded in 2009 and has multiple partnerships within healthcare systems across the United States; they also accept some health insurers, including Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS). MDLive provides the public with healthcare professionals who are available by phone or online video 24 hours a day to help patients answer questions about non-emergency related medical conditions.
In both cases, these companies are staffed with their own physician network. This means that they provide telehealth software and physicians. There are other vendors in the market that provide only the technology, which is then purchased by healthcare organizations to be used with their own physician network. Bridge Patient Portal is an example of a vendor that provides a platform for healthcare organizations to offer telehealth services to patients using their private providers. It’s essential to recognize the difference in approach here. There are many considerations in terms of the pros and cons of each model. There’s a risk when physicians step out of their primary care provider’s (PCP) network and go to a random telehealth provider for their care. One could say that when a patient’s private insurance company is promoting their own telehealth provider, they are essentially circumventing the patient’s PCP. An example of this is BCBS’ partnership with MDLive, where patients are encouraged to seek care outside of their PCP.
Unless brick and mortar healthcare organizations adopt telehealth platforms, they may lose the business of their patients. The rapid growth in demand for telehealth, and circumventing by private healthcare insurance companies, are leaving healthcare organizations scrambling to provide their patients with telehealth software. As a temporary solution, healthcare providers can leverage traditional video conferencing platforms for e-consultations. Once the crisis has subsided, healthcare providers will likely no longer be able to use telehealth in this manner — as the HIPAA waiver expires. In addition, healthcare providers will no longer be reimbursed for telehealth services through video conferencing platforms. Given the many challenges that exist today in sharing health records, it’s preferred that patients seek care with the same network of providers to reduce the duplication of care and diagnostic testing. But if a patient’s PCP can’t provide telehealth, they may be forced to seek care elsewhere.
According to the Families First Coronavirus Response Actpassed on March 18th, 2020, congress requires payers to cover telehealth visits (with health care providers) that relate to COVID-19 testing, treatment, and consultations during the public health emergency. Reimbursement for telehealth solutions during this time is being provided for all patients, not only those with Medicare. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many healthcare professionals are scrambling to find a HIPAA compliant telehealth software.
Seeking a HIPAA compliant telehealth software during COVID-19
HHS has created new guidelines on HIPAA requirements and modified HIPAA’s Privacy Rule, which stated that healthcare organizations must use only secure methods of communication for telehealth visits. The Office for Civil Rights said that videoconferencing services normally not permitted under HIPAA may now be used by healthcare professionals for the good faith provision of telehealth solutions. This change in policy allows video conferencing platforms such as Zoom® to be used during this time of crisis.
The Coronavirus pandemic has resulted in an increase in healthcare organizations leveraging video conferencing apps. In the past month, Zoom® has become one of the most popular choices for teleconferencing, registering a 535% increase in traffic. Previously Zoom® has maintained that they provide a HIPAA compliant telehealth software: Zoom® for Telehealth. This service claims to incorporate access and authentication controls, HIPAA compliant messaging is secured with end-to-end encryption and Zoom® has signed a HIPAA Business Associate Agreement (BAA).
During the last few weeks, there have been several security concerns surrounding Zoom®. It has been reported that the company does not have end-to-end encryption as they previously claimed. This discovery makes Zoom® decidedly NOT HIPAA compliant.
If healthcare providers want to ensure that patient privacy is respected, they should reconsider the use of Zoom® as a HIPAA compliant telehealth software. Aside from the lack of end-to-end encryption, additional security concerns include videoconference hijacking, user data being shared with third parties such as Facebook™, and lapses in security that make Zoom® vulnerable to cybercriminals and malware. While Zoom® is willing to sign a BAA, which is a crucial step towards achieving HIPAA-compliance, there are too many security issues preventing HIPAA-compliance. Until these issues are fully resolved, we do not recommend Zoom® as a HIPAA compliant telehealth software.
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.
Bridge Patient Portal is an important part of how our clients communicate with their patients. At Bridge, we think its important to share ways that Bridge Patient Portal can be used to help our clients meet their patients’ needs during this challenging time.
The Bridge team is available to help with any of the below items, AT NO COST, as part of our commitment to providing our clients the highest level of support in these situations.
Throughout Bridge, clients are able to place an “Alert Message” (see the images below) to help educate patients on any changes taking place with a client.
Homepage Alert Message:
Appointments Alert Message:
Messages Alert Message:
There is also a “Custom Widget” which can be placed on the portal home page to provide detailed information, such as links to external resources (i.e. CDC), symptom information, visit/scheduling protocol, etc.
Mass Messaging (SMS & Email)
In the Bridge admin panel, clients can filter patients by many different criteria (i.e. age, provider, active portal account, etc.) then type in a message to be sent to all patients meeting the filter criteria. The message can be sent in an SMS or Email format.
Automated Pre/Post Visit Messages
Using the Bridge admin panel, clients can create automated email notifications to be sent before and/or after a certain appointment type. This could be used, for example, to educate patients on a new visit policy.
Bridge is committed to fully developing its telemedicine solution in 2020. This has been many years in the making as the Bridge team has carefully watched the telemedicine market for trends, new innovations, and standout vendors. We will be working closely with our clients in the coming months to evaluate the best course of action for our telemedicine solution and explore partnerships with industry-leading vendors.
In the meantime, there are many features in Bridge to help our clients facilitate telemedicine encounters and online communication with their patients.
Secure Patient-Provider Messaging – Bridge supports secure messaging between patients and providers or delegated to a provider’s team. Interface permitting, messages can be received and replied to in the provider’s EHR. Many questions can be answered in this way and for providers using patient-provider messaging already, this is the most commonly used feature in the portal. Educating patients that this is a reliable way to communicate with the provider for non-emergent questions, especially defining the protocol for when a message should be sent to a provider. This protocol can be shared with the patient in the messaging feature, using the “Alert Message” feature.
Telemedicine Appointment Scheduling – Bridge offers appointment requests and self-scheduling functionality. Depending on the telemedicine program of a particular client, different options are available for helping patients schedule a telemedicine appointment. In first place, a telemedicine appointment type can be created, which would then allow better organization of provider schedules. If self-scheduling is already in use, a protocol that manages the times and providers that a telemedicine appointment can be scheduled can be created in Bridge. Again, using the “Alert Message” feature, clients can educate their patients on how to schedule a telemedicine appointment.
Facilitating Video Conferencing – Once an appointment is scheduled a message can be sent to the patient with a link to the video conference. It’s important that whichever video conferencing solution is used, that it meets HIPAA requirements. (Improving this functionality is where Bridge will be investing most of its efforts in 2020)
DISCLAIMER: Client environments and the capabilities of their environments can vary. Some functionality may not be available in certain environments. Please speak with a Bridge client manager to learn more.