FaceTime integration offers a fast way to get started with telehealth

By André Query | April 24, 2020


During the month of March, the athenahealth network saw a 30-times increase in the number of telehealth visits conducted daily. The COVID-19 public health emergency has prompted healthcare providers to seek alternatives to seeing patients in person. Based on these emerging needs, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (“HHS OCR”) temporarily adapted guidelines related to the enforcement of HIPAA Rules to give providers greater discretion in their use of telehealth services to remotely communicate with patients during this national emergency.

To facilitate providers’ communications with patients, we’ve developed an integration between the athenaOne mobile app and Apple’s FaceTime functionality that gives providers the ability to video call their patients directly from within the app. This gives providers the ability to communicate face-to-face with patients while safeguarding both parties from unnecessary in-person contact.

Here are five ways this feature is easily accessible to providers across our nationwide network:

  1. This feature is free to athenaOne customers

    The new FaceTime integration went live for athenaOne mobile app users across our network on April 2, 2020. Because the update was pushed out automatically, providers could start using it without any extra work.

  2. Patients and providers with any iOS-enabled device can use FaceTime

    Since FaceTime is an Apple proprietary technology, patients and providers who have access to an iPhone, iPad, or Apple laptop can complete a video call. (Our athenaOne mobile app is also built for iOS.)

  3. You don’t need a scheduled appointment to video call a patient

    Physicians can use the video call feature during, or independent of, a scheduled appointment. This allows physicians to check-in when they have time, and can streamline their ability to move through a list of patients based on availability.

  4. You may be able to bill for FaceTime visits

    athenahealth supports billing for telehealth medicine, and the best practice guidelines our teams are sharing with customers about billing telehealth visits may also apply to FaceTime calls.

  5. It’s easy to begin using

    Within two weeks of going live, over 14,000 FaceTime calls were made using the new feature, and the number of providers actively using the athenaOne mobile app increased by over 31 percent.

One final point that’s acknowledged within the HHS OCR’s temporarily adapted guidelines is the potential privacy risks introduced when using a third-party application. It’s their perspective that providers should notify patients about these risks before using features like FaceTime to administer telehealth medicine.

For a quick demonstration of how this new feature works, check out the video below. If you’re an athenahealth customer and have additional questions, please reach out to your customer success manager.

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