29 May 2013

Patient Privacy in Telemedicine

Using telemedicine, especially video-based communications is not difficult for me. I do not have a doctor that will use it. Fortunately, there are doctors that can and do use this form of communications in some areas of the USA. I admit that I wish I could and maybe someday, as telemedicine becomes more acceptable and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) decides that it is worth reimbursing for and less of a problem than they currently envision. I am hoping congressional action will light a fire under CMS.

This is one reason I try to research about telemedicine more frequently. Diabetes still is my main concern, but I am finding more regular sources of information and don't have to look as hard for good information. Now the information comes to me and allows me to research more for topics in telemedicine, mHealth, telehealth, and other topics of interest.

As telemedicine comes into its own, one Silicon Valley firm has stepped up and has a product that consumers may desire because of its availability. Granted, presently it is only for iPad owners and not those of us with desktop computers. Vsee, a Silicon Valley-based company that's created the first iPad telehealth app that is FDA-registered and HIPAA-compliant. It's also free to download and free for patients to use the base-level service. This is the great part and makes it desirable.

When will it be available for desktop computers, and other tablets? This is unknown at this time. Further down it does say computers or tablets, so apparently they are available. The big feature is Vsee uses end-to-end encryption. The drawback is finding doctors that will use this under current conditions. I can envision contract physicians using this. I discuss contract medicine in a blog of mine here.

Vsee CEO Milton Chen says that last year in the USA, there was more than 900 million doctor visits. He estimates that half those would have been suitable for handling remotely, especially for things like follow-ups, discussion of lab results, psychiatric visits, and certain types of counseling.

Another feature that Vsee promotes is document sharing and the use of an electronic pen to mark up the document. This means test results and other reports important to the patient. Vsee does charge $9 per user per month for the document-sharing feature and collects a usage fee from the participating doctor. A patient would pay the healthcare provider directly for the telemedicine visit.

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