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In an economy that offers groceries, designer clothes, transportation and takeout at the tap of an app button, on-demand medical interventions are the next logical step for consumer satisfaction.

Affordable Healthcare 123 Tees, a company that is based around a simple belief that healthcare should be as affordable as clothing, looks into the changes happening in healthcare with on-demand services.

When it comes to trusting over-the-phone and online doctors, what should consumers expect? What should consumers be wary of? Are there limits on services provided, and what are the repercussions for mistakes? And with all of this medical information being transferred and stored, are on-demand services caring for their patients’ privacy, as well as their health?

What on-demand doctors offer consumers:

First Opinion lets patients text with doctors (1). Pager allows users to contact doctors via smartphone, then schedule a real-life appointment with a doctor (2). There are lots of services to name, but for a glimpse of a well-rounded service, let’s look at Doctors on Demand.

They clearly lay out what they’ll treat:

  • Urgent care for common conditions like back pain, allergies, and sinus infections.
  • Chronic conditions like obesity and high cholesterol.
  • Labs and screening for STDs, vitamin deficiencies, and vaccine titers.
  • Preventive medicine for weight loss counseling and quitting smoking.
  • Medical advice for general questions like, “Am I experiencing a medical emergency?”

This is an impressive suite of services, and they also have a mental health component, offering services for postpartum depression, anxiety, trauma and loss. They also offer talk therapy and medication management.

Like many such services, Doctors on Demand accepts insurance but is clear about rates for the uninsured, charging a flat fee of $79 for a medical visit. This is comparable to an urgent care visit for the uninsured, with the added bonus of not having to leave the house.

Their transparency and range of services seem to be working in their favor: Doctors on Demand has more than one million registered users, a rating of 4.9/5, and 80% of their visitors are repeat customers.

On-demand doctors appeal to the average consumer on several levels:

  • Instant gratification – consumers expect their needs to be met immediately.
  • Digital engagement – more and more consumers are accustomed to digital engagement.
  • Well-described services – these sites often have clear guidelines on what they offer, and simple pricing breakdowns that appeal to consumers.
  • Allows consumers to take charge of their health – the importance of independence can’t be overemphasized.

What on-demand doctors can’t offer:

These on-demand doctors can’t do everything.  They won’t treat traumatic brain or spinal cord injuries, chest pain or numbness, severe burns or lacerations, multiple broken bones, etc. In short, they won’t treat anything that would require a trip to the emergency room.

Data Breaches and Healthcare: what must on-demand doctors do to protect PHI?

On-demand doctors offer new heights of freedom, affordability, and convenience to consumers. But does it carry a heftier risk for data breaches?

Although Healthcare Informatics reports that data breaches in the healthcare sector have reached a four-year low (4), the percentage of those attacks attributed to hacking and IT incidents is actually on the rise. What do on-demand healthcare services need to do to mitigate the risk of data breaches?

HIPAA rights

First of all, on-demand doctors are subject to the same regulatory guidelines as in-office doctors (and everyone in the medical field). The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act demands that all Private Health Information (PHI) of consumers is kept secure. On-demand healthcare services need to state their adherence to HIPAA laws immediately on their websites to prove legitimacy.

Third-party validations:

Teladoc recently announced that it received a third-party certification from the Health Information Trust (HITRUST) Alliance (5). This process took Teladoc six months to achieve and required them to complete hundreds of security controls for issues from access control to malware defenses.  Third-party certification with a company like HITRUST goes a long way towards establishing credibility and demonstrating a focus on consumer’s PHI (6).

Portals and passwords:

Telehealth companies need to be using secure portals. SSL (Secure Site Lock) portals – indicated by the green padlock in the search bar – go a long way towards securing information. They must ensure sensitive information is password-protected. Every telehealth site should offer a statement that they use encryption technology and firewalls to protect information.

Physical security is important:

In addition to online security, on-demand doctors need to emphasize the physical status of their servers. MeMD offers a great glimpse into their physical security, emphasizing that they have 24/7 armed security guards and advanced surveillance measures ensuring that their servers are secure (7). In addition to online security, on-demand doctors need to emphasize the physical status of their servers.

Check who they partner with:

A company is only as good as who they partner with. To protect consumers’ sensitive information, they need to team up with the best in the business to make sure they’re on the front lines of new technology and breakthroughs. Telemedicine companies should be working closely with well-regarded cyber security companies to protect consumers’ PHI.

Our on-demand economy is ushering in both a new wave of healthcare options for consumers and a new wave of concerns for data security. With adequate preventative measures and a focus on security, the benefits of on-demand healthcare can outweigh its drawbacks.

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