By Amanda Sangster - May 11, 2020
Social distance and stay-at-home orders are leading many people to rely on technology to connect with loved ones and even their physicians. Many hospitals and health care organizations are offering virtual visits to continue care, but are those online appointments safe?
The answer is yes, your virtual visit is safe. Moffitt Cancer Center has been preparing for telehealth visits for a long time. Our virtual health program is well-developed, secure and has been used by patients and providers prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since COVID-19 swept across the world, virtual visits at Moffitt increased by 5000%. Out of precaution, many established patients elected to have their existing appointments converted into virtual visits. This method of care delivery can save families time and convenience, while also eliminating the risk of infection for immunocompromised patients.
Telemedicine is still a new technology for a lot of cancer patients, who may have reasonable, logical concerns. Patients may be hesitant to ask if they’re eligible for a virtual visit because they are worried if their information and privacy are safe. However, Moffitt patients and caregivers can rest assured that they are protected as they embark out of their comfort zones into this new digital frontier.
Virtual visits are HIPAA compliant
HIPAA is federal legislation that safeguards your medical information and prevents your private health data from being shared with unauthorized people. During a virtual visit, no personal, identifiable information is recorded. While your care plan will be communicated, your medical chart is not shared in a way that compromises HIPAA compliancy. Because you’re talking face-to-face with your provider, a virtual visit maintains the same level of confidentiality as an in-person appointment.
The video conferencing platform is safe
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Moffitt is using Zoom Video Communication for virtual visits and organization meetings. On average, Moffitt hosts over 6,000 Zoom meetings each week. Zoom is user-friendly, safe and free for patients and caregivers to download, making it a good platform for virtual visits.
For added security, meeting identification numbers and passwords are required for all virtual appointments. This access information is unique to each patient’s visit. Sharing this information publicly can put your privacy at risk, so it’s important you keep this information confidential and secure.
While you may read news stories about uninvited guests breaching video conferencing walls, these incidences are rare. Zoom is under constant surveillance and Moffitt’s Cyber Security team works tirelessly to prevent security threats from penetrating our network and putting our patients and employees at risk. The team responds immediately when there is evidence that our organization could be exposed to a high-risk situation.is t
Your access to high-quality medical care remains the same
Choosing a virtual visit over an in-person appointment does not sacrifice care for convenience. You will still receive dedicated, face-to-face time with your health care provider. Communication about your care plan won’t be hindered. With video conferencing, your provider can read your non-verbal cues that provide insight to how you might be feeling about the information exchanged. The same resources are also available to you, like access to prescriptions when deemed appropriate by your provider.
Virtual visits offer other safety nets
A virtual visit saves valuable time and resources for patients and providers. Many people travel long distances for their appointments, requiring them to pay for childcare and transportation. Wait times increase at offices because rooms need to be sterilized after every patient. With telemedicine, you don’t have to plan your day around your doctor appointment. And in a time of scarcity, virtual visits also help preserve resources like gloves and masks.
Ultimately, your Moffitt care team knows you best and understands that each patient has unique needs. Given the nature of cancer care, many of our patients need in-person visits. Not all appointments can be conducted virtually. Your care team will work with you to determine if a virtual visit is best for you.