As Use of Telehealth Contact Centers Grow, Privacy must be Ensured
By: Mohie Ahmed
When the COVID-10 pandemic began, no industry in the world was put under more stress than the medical industry. With cases climbing, and more people constantly wanting information on what to do, the medical industry turned to technology to meet the demand. The use of telehealth services became more common as the pandemic raged on, due to its potential to control costs, while providing real-time tools to promote wellness, prevent disease, and enable the home management of chronic conditions. During the first quarter of 2020 alone, the use of telehealth visits increased 50 percent compared to all of 2019.
As the telehealth industry grew, the use of contact centers by the healthcare industry grew as well, with hospitals finding that contact centers could handle the increased call volume from concerned citizens wanting to know more about the virus. As contact centers became more common in the healthcare industry, hospitals started to quickly see the advantages of using one to help satisfy the needs and questions of the public. Many hospitals used contact centers to quickly start a COVID-19 hotline, allowing people to call in with any questions they had regarding the pandemic. This allowed hospitals to focus on patients and COVID-19 cases, while still fulfilling the needs of the drastically increased call volume.
While the use of contact centers made handling the chaos of the COVID-19 pandemic more manageable, hospitals also started to find that the use of contact centers in the healthcare industry had more benefits. Running a call center in a virtual server environment, or in the cloud, is giving hospitals the ability to stay flexible and available by using remote operators. Hospital call centers are leveraging their communication software, often in new ways, to provide their communities and staff with accurate information and quick responses.
Hospital call center and healthcare professionals have already shown agility in adapting communications software in new ways to improve telemedicine applications while enhancing patient care – even during a pandemic. Advances in technology and our ability to use it could soon make the use of telehealth a standard healthcare practice.
While the use of contact centers in the healthcare industry seems to be an essential part of the future of telehealth, there is still one area of concern when it comes to using contact centers, that being privacy. The use of telehealth contact centers frequently involves bidirectional, digital collection and communication of sensitive health information among healthcare providers and patients. This leads to a whole myriad of relevant threats, including breach of confidentiality during collection of sensitive data or during transmission to the provider’s system; unauthorized access to the functionality of supporting devices as well as to data stored on them; and untrusted distribution of software and hardware to the patient.
As contact centers continue to provide valuable services to the healthcare industry, they may just find themselves here to stay. With expanded access and improved reimbursement policies in place, as well as ongoing acceptability by patients and health care providers, telehealth might continue to serve as an important modality for delivering care during, and after the pandemic.
Securing healthcare contact center engagements has never been more important. Ensuring HIPAA compliance for call centers can be accomplished by only allowing authorized users to access the call center´s private communications network. Once secure access to the network is achieved, authorized users can then communicate with other authorized users, share documents, files and images as attachments, and engage in secure group discussions when a scenario arises that would benefit from collaboration. Only when we can fully secure interactions can we fully optimize the value of online interactions between providers and patients.
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