" telehealth Archives - LuxSci

Posts Tagged ‘telehealth’

What is the Difference Between Asynchronous and Synchronous Communications?

Tuesday, June 7th, 2022

Synchronous and asynchronous are terms used to describe when and how individuals communicate. The critical difference between asynchronous and synchronous communication is that synchronous communications are scheduled, real-time interactions. Asynchronous communications happen independently and don’t need scheduling.

This article explores the differences between each and how they can be utilized in a healthcare context.

asynchronous and synchronous communications

Synchronous Communications

Synchronous communications happen in real-time between two or more people. Examples of synchronous communications include in-person meetings, videoconferencing, phone calls, or other types of interactions where an immediate response is expected.

In a health care context, this face-to-face time is precious and can be hard to schedule. Unless seeking acute care at an emergency department or urgent care facility, it is not easy to have same-day synchronous communications with a care provider. Telehealth live video appointments are also considered synchronous.

Asynchronous Communications

Alternatively, asynchronous communications are interactions without real-time conversation. The replies to asynchronous messages are delayed and happen on the participants’ schedules. Email, texting, patient portal messaging, video libraries, or other online wikis are considered asynchronous communications.

Asynchronous communications are becoming more popular among patients and healthcare providers. The advent of patient portals with secure messaging capabilities allows for non-urgent communications to be sent securely and answered on time.

Which is better for healthcare communications?

It depends on the context. Synchronous communications are always better for urgent scenarios. If a sick child exhibits flu-like symptoms, it makes sense to use synchronous communication channels to contact their pediatrician.

However, asynchronous communications are an excellent option for most administrative healthcare interactions. Questions about billing, appointment scheduling, referrals, prescription refills, etc., are not urgent and most often do not require a face-to-face interaction.

Some non-urgent medical questions can also be addressed through asynchronous communications. For example, if a patient has a rash or insect bite, they can upload an image of the rash to a patient portal where a clinician can diagnose and recommend a treatment remotely. Of course, the question may not be answered immediately, but it could be a good option for diagnosing and treating minor skin conditions and irritations.

Improving the Patient and Clinician Experience

In fact, cutting down the number of synchronous communications can help improve both the clinician and patient experience. On the clinician’s side, constant interruptions by phone calls or live video chats can be detrimental to productivity and increase stress. By encouraging asynchronous communications for non-critical issues, clinicians can block off time to respond to messages. They can also take time to deliver thorough responses instead of rushing or being unprepared for conversations.

From the patient’s perspective, asynchronous communication can often offer a better experience. Almost everyone has called their doctor’s office and been put on hold for extended periods. It is frustrating, can take a lot of time out of a workday, and often doesn’t deliver an adequate response. Instead, patients can send a message and be confident that it will be addressed by the right staff member promptly. Asynchronous communications also tend to be more transparent. Patients can reference messages later because they are logged in chat portals or email chains.


Organizations should look at ways to incorporate more asynchronous communications into their workflows. Relieving the administrative burden on staff and freeing up phone lines helps improve employee satisfaction and allows them to focus on what matters- providing a high quality of patient care.

Increasing Access to Mental Health Care with Digital Technology

Tuesday, May 24th, 2022

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. The pandemic sharply increased the demand for behavioral health services, and digital solutions proved to be a popular solution. This article explores changing consumer preferences and how care delivery organizations can use digital technology to support patients seeking mental health care.

digital mental health care

Demand for Digital Mental Health Care is Increasing

The demand for mental health care services has grown drastically over the past three years. According to Kaiser Family Foundation data, outpatient visits related to mental health or substance use diagnoses increased from 11 percent in 2019 to 39 percent in 2021.

In April 2020, the Food and Drug Administration loosened regulations on mental health applications so that people would not have to go without support during the difficult early days of the pandemic. This decision allowed for rapid growth in direct-to-consumer mental health treatment through apps like Headspace and BetterHelp. As a result, venture capital firms invested more than $2.4 billion in digital behavioral health apps in 2020- more than twice the amount invested in 2019.

As the public health emergency will likely wind down this year, organizations must figure out how to continue to meet consumers’ preferences for mental health care. Many consumers prefer the convenience and privacy that digital alternatives offer.

Why Use Digital Alternatives

Although people first turned to digital alternatives out of necessity, it is clear that many patients now prefer digital alternatives. Mental health care is particularly suited to digital treatments, as physical examinations are often not required for diagnosis and treatment.

In addition, digital alternatives can help limit stigma and reduce stress. Accessing care at home means that running into neighbors in the waiting room is physically impossible. Digital options offer privacy and discretion. People can access care without worrying that someone will find out about it.

Even better, patients can access digital mental health care at almost any time and location. This increases access to care for people with demanding work and family schedules, limited transportation, and other reasons they cannot come into a traditional medical office during regular office hours. An internet connection is all that is needed to talk to a mental health professional.

Finally, digital alternatives enable individuals who are members of underserved groups to connect with mental health professionals who understand their experiences. For example, removing geographic restrictions can allow an LGBT person to meet with a therapist who accepts their identity and has experience working with individuals of different gender and sexual identities. Increasing patient satisfaction leads to better health outcomes.

Barriers to Digital Mental Health Care

A report from athenahealth found that even though there is a growing demand for mental health services, many adults still do not have access to the care they want and need.

High-speed broadband access is still not widespread or affordable enough to support digital health options for many individuals living in rural areas. Federal and state governments are working with internet service providers on solutions, but it remains an issue for rural and poorer patient populations.

People are also concerned about the cost of mental health treatment and possible insurance issues. Many insurance plans do not cover mental health treatment. High out-of-pocket health costs can lead people to postpone or avoid care, producing poorer health outcomes and raising overall healthcare spending.

Mental health stigma is also a barrier to care. Nearly one-quarter (24%) of the athenahealth survey respondents reported feeling judgment from family members when talking about mental health. Removing cultural barriers to treatment is a complex issue that needs to be addressed to ensure that everyone has access to the care they need.


Digital mental health care is likely here to stay. For mental health professionals offering telehealth and digital care, remember to use secure communications. As the FDA re-instates regulations, insecure texting, email, and video will no longer be secure enough for patient communications. Contact LuxSci today if you want to learn more about protecting digital mental health care communications.

What Does HIPAA Say About Telehealth?

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2019

Telehealth is becoming a popular option for providing efficient treatment and other services. Since it’s still an emerging practice, many in the health industry wonder how telehealth fits into the existing HIPAA regulations.

You may be surprised that HIPAA doesn’t mention telehealth, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t apply. The reason for the omission is that the HIPAA regulations were designed to be broad and flexible to suit a wide variety of situations and changes in technology.

telehealth HIPAA

What Does Telehealth Include?

Before we dive in and cover how HIPAA can apply to telehealth, it’s important to talk about what telehealth is. Many healthcare organizations adopted some form of telehealth during the pandemic, and changing consumer preferences may mean it’s here to stay.

Telehealth is a broad practice that involves using technology to deliver healthcare and related services from a distance. It most commonly refers to remote treatment (also known as telemedicine), but it encompasses much more. Telehealth also includes intervention, remote patient monitoring, and patient education.

In What Situations Does HIPAA Apply to Telehealth?

HIPAA regulations apply to both covered entities, which are those involved in the health field, and their business associates (BAs), which are the individuals or organizations that covered entities share data with. Covered entities must have business associates agreements (BAAs) with their BAs.

HIPAA law is relevant whenever electronic protected health information (ePHI) is collected, processed, transmitted, or stored.

According to the Privacy Rule, ePHI is any data that is both “individually identifiable” and concerns:

  • An individual’s current, past, or future health, whether it is mental or physical.
  • Any treatment or healthcare provided to the individual.
  • Any payment information related to healthcare, whether it is past, present, or future.

When the HIPAA regulations talk about individually identifiable information, they refer to any data which either directly or indirectly could be used to identify a person. This includes things like:

  • Name
  • Contact details
  • Address (physical or email)
  • Social security number
  • Biometric details
  • License number
  • IP address
  • Any other characteristic that could uniquely identify an individual

To summarize, HIPAA applies to organizations in the health field and any companies they share data with (such as communications providers). The regulations are relevant whenever these organizations deal with information that involves an individual’s health if it can also be used to identify them.

Your organization needs to abide by the regulations in any situation that meets the above criteria, whether they involve telehealth or not.

How Can HIPAA Apply to Telehealth?

Under HIPAA, both covered entities and their business associates must “Ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of all electronic protected health information the covered entity or business associate creates, receives, maintains, or transmits.”

They must protect against reasonably anticipated threats, uses, and disclosures, ensuring that their employees comply with the regulations. Organizations must conduct their risk assessment to determine the appropriate technical, administrative, and physical safeguards that need to be put in place to meet the HIPAA requirements.

Mechanisms for HIPAA compliance are either deemed “required” or “addressable.” Those aspects listed as “required” are mandatory, while the regulations are flexible when it comes to “addressable” items.

Covered entities and business associates must document the implementation process and record whether or not it would be “reasonable or appropriate” to implement each specification in their circumstances.

When it comes to telehealth systems that deal with ePHI, these are some of the required technical specifications:

  • Access control
  • Unique user identification
  • Emergency access procedures
  • Audit controls
  • Integrity protection procedures
  • Authentication measures for individuals and entities
  • Transmission security

The following are some of the addressable specifications:

  • Automatic logoff
  • Encryption and decryption
  • Authentication mechanisms for ePHI
  • Audit controls

How to Make Your Organization’s Telehealth Systems HIPAA-Compliant?

Developing and maintaining HIPAA-compliant telehealth systems is a relatively complex process. Many of our most commonly used communications systems, such as Zoom or FaceTime, aren’t HIPAA-compliant by default, which makes it hard for organizations to find the right tools for the job.

The best way to implement secure and compliant telehealth systems is to use a provider that specializes in this niche. LuxSci’s services are HIPAA-compliant, and we offer secure email and communications services. A HIPAA specialist makes it easy to both stay within the regulations and offer excellent telehealth services to your patients.

6 Telehealth Privacy and Security Essentials

Thursday, September 21st, 2017

HIPAA covers telehealth but does this make it safe? Learn the measures that ensure patient safety and privacy while using a virtual doctor visit program. 

Over the past few years, the rise of telehealth in healthcare has transformed patient-doctor interactions. Nonetheless, the privacy and security of protected health information (PHI) remain a big question. These concerns make sense because new technology often comes with new challenges.

Luckily, every problem comes with a solution. Thus, making a few smart choices can work wonders to keep the patient data protected.

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What Is HIPAA-Compliant Videoconferencing?

Monday, October 10th, 2016

HIPAA-compliant videoconferencing is a form of telecommunication used in health settings, allowing multiple parties (e.g., doctor and patient) to communicate via two-way video and audio transmissions. It provides patients with the same privacy and confidentiality that applies to in-person visits, protecting their information and giving the same care to storage and dissemination of the video as to paper documents under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

hipaa-compliant videoconferencing

There are many advantages to videoconferencing with patients rather than meeting them in person. Some patients have limited mobility, making it difficult to visit a healthcare provider physically. Some patient follow-ups only require a quick conversation and don’t require a physical examination. It may also be much more convenient for many patients to have a video conversation than to travel to a doctor’s office. Another benefit is the cost savings; videoconferencing can be much cheaper than in-person visits.

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