The technology required to conduct a remote patient encounter is widely available and cost effective.
For telephone calls, you may consider using earphones/headphones for better sound quality and to ensure patient privacy. For video visits, reliant internet connection, a video camera and a microphone is needed. To ensure optimal connection speed, use hardwired internet. You can use speedtest.net to test the speed. Hit “Go” and anything above 10 Mbps will be ideal for video calls. Consider using earphones/headphones/headset for better sound quality and to ensure patient privacy. Consider using a secure USB drive if you cannot save and edit third-party forms through your electronic medical record (EMR) and you still need secure electronic storage. Consider securing it with a strong password.
For more information and recommended hardware see: Virtual Care Hardware Considerations (Kaplan, 2020).
For telephone calls, no software is required. If you are using a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) phone application (such as RingCentral, FanGo) ensure that you have received patient consent (verbal is sufficient) to use the application for your patient encounter. If you’re new to video visits, the key decision is whether to use general videoconferencing tools (e.g. Skype and Teams by Microsoft, Facetime by Apple, Zoom.us and/or Google Hangouts) or software platforms designed specifically for health care (e.g.EMR-integrated platforms, VirtualCare, iTelemed, Adracare, etc.). For more information, see OntarioMD’s comprehensive overview of the different virtual care options.
There are advantages to each:
- General videoconferencing is widely available, there are versions for every computer and mobile device, and the platforms are supported by large companies that provide reliable service and can handle sudden surges in use (e.g., during pandemics).
- Health care specific platforms are designed for virtual visits meaning that they can be more secure, have less configuration complexity and may integrate into your EMR.
Please note, if you opt to use a general videoconferencing platform you may need to configure the platform settings to protect the patient’s privacy:
- Disable all meeting recording options.
- Ensure that only one patient can enter a meeting at a time and/or that no patient can enter without specific permission from you.
Additionally, unless you are using virtual care technologies where consent is handled at sign-up, you must ask patients for their consent (verbal is sufficient).