5 factors to consider while choosing a 3rd party video conferencing tool for your telemedicine app

5 Factors to look out for choosing a 3rd party video conferencing tool for your telemedicine application
Building a healthcare solution is a complicated process, and a myriad of regulatory requirements often add time and costs to the product.

For this reason, experienced health-tech developers like Kays Harbor rely on their ability to integrate relevant 3rd party solutions which can expedite the development of your healthcare software without the need to reinvent the wheel, at the same time adhering to the strict regulatory requirements.

One such area where we suggest our clients to opt for a 3rd party tool is the video conferencing module when it comes to developing a telemedicine solution. As wecounsel rightly explains that when it comes to telehealth say ‘No’ to Skype! Extending the argument further, we believe that selection of a 3rd party video conferencing solution for your telemedicine app should be followed by a thorough research keeping in mind it deals with patient data privacy. With so many third-party video conferencing products available in the market, it could be a challenging task to decide which solution to incorporate in your product.

While you are doing your research around the available options in the market, do keep the following 5 points in mind that guide you to towards the right 3rd party video conferencing tool for your needs.

When choosing a video conferencing tool for your telemedicine solution, make sure you look out for these five factors:

1. Check if it is HIPAA complaint

Check if it is HIPAA complaint
In all probabilities, you would have kept HIPAA compliance in mind while you are building the telemedicine solution. You don’t want to undo the hard work your developers have put into your product by integrating a non-compliant 3rd party solution.

a. Privacy and security compliance

The third-party product must be compliant with HIPAA’s Privacy and Security Rules, especially in relation to the increased requirements relative to the HITECH Act.

b. Complete protection of PHI

While your portion of the telemedicine solution has been built in a way that it doesn’t access the protected health information (PHI) being transmitted, you must ensure that 3rd party VC tool you are integrating also protects the PHI. As you are considered under HIPAA to be a covered entity and you are using another party’s service to assist in transmitting PHI, therefore HIPAA requires a business associate agreement to be in place to protect all parties.

c. The tool should allow peer-to-peer sessions

To remain compliant, the video conferencing tool you choose should create a portal from endpoint to endpoint, thus ensuring that PHI is never stored or received in any way by your own telemedicine solution. This essentially means the video conferencing tool acts as a closed portal through which information passes, preventing the interception or leakage of data between points A and B. It should only broker the connection between securely verified participants and allow for the administration and management of the list of such users.

d. Choose a tool that integrates encryption

While the Security Rule doesn’t require data encryption in cases where it can be shown to not be reasonable or appropriate, the video conferencing tool you choose should encrypt the data that it generates. If there is a breach for any reason,proper encryption provides a safe harbor and you would not need to provide notification of the breach as otherwise required by HIPAA’s Breach Rule (as defined in the HITECH Act).

e. The video conferencing solution should allow HIPAA compliant local file storage

You should choose a tool that allows your users to save the PHI created to your own hardware, which should itself be HIPAA compliant. The tool should not itself store any data within its infrastructure or be allowed to access the said data, to protect yourself and your clients.

With the rigid legal requirements, out of the way, we can now turn to the performance and aesthetics of your telemedicine solution.

2. Video and Audio performance

Video and Audio performance

The video conferencing tool you choose to integrate into your telemedicine solution should add versatility and adaptability to the way your users connect to one another.

a. Crystal clear clarity regardless of connection quality

The tool you choose should provide high quality audio and visual performance regardless of the user’s connection speed, or disparate connection speeds between users. The tool should offer compatibility with and the ability to thrive on bandwidths of all types.

b. Efficiency on multiple displays

Your users may be running telemedicine sessions over different device types and screen sizes. The 3rd party video conferencing solution should be able to render seamlessly irrespective of the screen size and resolution, without any severe effect on the video/audio quality.

c. A customizable interface helps build trust

The tool you choose should allow users to customize the video feed with options such as being able to resize video, allow the feed to appear frameless to improve the personal connection between the doctor and patient, allow users to arrange multiple feeds, and other similar display functionality.

3. Purpose-specific features

Purpose-specific features
Depending on the purpose and functionality of your telemedicine solution, there can be several custom features you might want to incorporate in your product. In that scenario, your 3rd party video conferencing tool should be flexible enough to allow you to easily build such functionalities on top of it. Consider the following custom features and decide for yourself.

a. Pause and annotate live video

You might need a tool that allows the doctor to pause the video, annotate records, or even draw on the monitor to share information with the patient.

b. Patient queue

If your telemedicine tool is being used to allow doctors to perform virtual consultations, it might be necessary to choose a video conferencing solution that keeps a queue of patients to manage appointments and contacts at a glance.

c. Multimedia functionality

In order to allow users to share documents, records, educational material or other information with other participants, you might need a tool that allows the ability to patch in alternate content feeds.

d. Multi-User feeds and chat

There are video conferencing tools that allow your users to add in other users to video conversations in situations where appropriate, such as consults with families or when participants are in multiple locations.

4. Customization

To create the most versatile telemedicine solution, your video conferencing component must include a significant degree of customizability and be compatible with the other components of your product.

a. User interface and portal

The 3rd party tool should be flexible and customizable enough so that it doesn’t appear to be a separate module from the rest of your telemedicine solution’s interface. It should also include many relevant UI options, such as the ability to access client records, scheduling tools, and workflow and productivity tools, to maximize integration and usability.

b. Information is easily accessible

Data created by the video conferencing tool should easily integrate into the existing data captured by the rest of your telemedicine solution and be compatible with software and hardware in use in the medical field. Ensure any data created during a session is converted to text or data files that can be uploaded into users’ existing EMR / EHR systems and that videos can be saved in accessible and HIPAA-compliant formats.

5. Compatibility with your own systems

Compatibility with your own systems
The most important factor in choosing which videoconferencing tool to integrate into your telemedicine solution is determining with which systems the tool should be compatible.

a. Browser compatibility

As you have specific browser requirements and functionality built into your tool and your users likely have their own preferences, you want a tool that is compatible with as many browser platforms as possible, including but not limited to Safari, Chrome, and Firefox.

b. Technology compatibility

Even more important is knowing the hardware preferences of your intended client base. The tool you choose must include compatibility with your intended target operating systems, be it Windows or Mac. If mobility is a concern, consider compatibility with Android and iOS. Finally, does the tool include compatibility with JavaScript and other software solutions that might be integrated into your telemedicine solution?

Your choice of video conferencing tool is driven by your goals

Telemedicine is a tricky new path for medical professionals to traverse. Several factors and regulatory requirements dictate both form and functionality of the software that can allow medical professionals to treat patients at a distance while ensuring client medical information remains secure.

In building a telemedicine tool, you might choose to integrate 3rd party modular solutions, such as videoconferencing tools, to fulfill specific functions in your final solution. Important from software development point of view is to consider all the regulations outlining security requirements of HIPAA as well as intended functionality and the needs of the clients. If you’re looking to build your own telemedicine solution and have more questions, contact our team and we will guide you on how to proceed with your telemedicine journey.