At this point, nearly everyone who has a job has been forced to figure out how to do work and stay connected to the office and coworkers through digital means. Virtual meetings have become the norm. Individuals and companies have been looking for the best solutions for this type of communication. We know you’re looking, too. The thing that adds another layer of complexity to people in the medical field is whether or not the platform is HIPAA compliant. As we’ve discussed before, there are protections that health care providers must pay attention to in order to stay compliant (and avoid that fine!). The federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) says, “Covered health care providers that seek additional privacy protections for telehealth while using video communication products should provide such services through technology vendors that are HIPAA compliant and will enter into HIPAA business associate agreements (BAAs) in connection with the provision of their video communication products.” In other words, you’ll have to take some extra steps which may add to the cost of the platform.
In order to help you make a decision about which video platform to use in connecting with coworkers, patients, and service providers, we’ve come up with a list with details about what we like about the different messaging platforms.
HIPAA Compliant: Yes, for $200 a month.
Pricing: Free for a 40 minute meeting. Increasing number of features for the Pro ($15), Business ($20 per user, minimum 10 users), and Enterprise levels ($20 per user, minimum 50 users).
If you are a practice of under 100 people and you are planning on using Zoom primarily for interacting with patients, the free tier is the way to go. The free tier allows a user to host up to 100 participants in a video meeting. You can have as many meetings as you want, though they are limited to 40 minutes. You can also have as many one to one meetings as you want.
Zoom does have a Healthcare compliant tier which starts at $200 a month.
G Suite Hangouts Meet
HIPAA Compliant: Yes, no additional cost.
Pricing: $6 per user a month for Basic, $12 per user a month for Business, and $25 per user a month for Enterprise.
Google’s G Suite is much more than a virtual meeting platform. One of the benefits of G Suite is that it provides for an email platform along with the entire slate of Google office products (docs, sheets, slides, etc.) as well as a company chat platform similar to Slack. Hangouts Meet, the virtual meeting platform, works similarly to Zoom in that the lowest tier allows for 100 people in one meeting, (Through July 1 it’s up to 250) but there is no maximum number of minutes per meeting.
G Suite suite is HIPAA compliant. All you have to do is make sure you sign the Business Associate Agreement from Google to get the ball rolling on being compliant.
HIPAA Compliant: No, not technically since Skype won’t sign BAA’s.
Pricing: Free for normal use which includes video conferencing for up to 50 people. The healthcare tier isn’t listed, though, and you’ll have to contact a salesperson to get that information.
Skype is the video conferencing platform that has been around the longest and was probably the first one you ever used. It has a strong list of features and is free for a basic tier. For healthcare purposes, though, you’ll have to contact their parent company, Microsoft, in order to find out what that might cost you as well as to find out all of the additional features it provides.
HIPAA Compliant: No, not technically since Apple won’t sign BAA’s.
Pricing: Free on any iOS or macOS device. Will host up to 32 people on one call.
Facetime brought video calling to the masses when it was introduced with the iPhone 4 in 2010. Since that time it has been used repeatedly to keep people in touch with one another. It is a great platform for video conferencing, however there are to major drawbacks. The first is that everyone participating has to be on an Apple device such as the iPhone, iPad, or any of the MacBook Pro, MacBook Air, and iMac computers (other macOS equipped computers can as well, but you’ll have to supply the camera). The second is that Apple refuses to issue the Business Associate Agreement that HHS requires.