These days, Zoom is pretty much synonymous with video conferencing — and it’s easy to see why. Zoom’s cloud-based platform is free to download, simple to use, and supports calls with up to 100 people.
Chances are, you’ve “hopped on a Zoom” to check in with loved ones or “Zoomed in” to a happy hour with friends. But now, you’re wondering if you can safely use Zoom to meet with clients, colleagues, and supervisors. In other words, is Zoom a HIPAA compliant video conferencing platform for telehealth?
The short answer: Zoom is not HIPAA compliant out-of-the-box, but they do offer a HIPAA compliant plan for healthcare.
Read on for an in-depth explanation and a look at how you can stay HIPAA compliant when conducting telehealth appointments and supervision hours.
Telemedicine is having a moment, especially when it comes to therapy. In a time when 50% of all U.S. counties lack any mental health professionals, telehealth technology is filling a gap and bringing much-needed access to folks in underserved areas.
And this is only amplified by the COVID-19 crisis. WBUR reports that over the past six weeks, BCBS Massachusetts recorded more than half a million telehealth appointments, compared to 5,000 over a six-week period at the beginning of 2020. Unsurprisingly, more than half of those visits were mental health-related.
The same is true for tele-supervision for pre-licensed therapists. Online clinical supervision is currently allowed in 45 states and counting. As an LMFT, that solves a problem that’s very close to my heart.
It’s incredibly exciting to see how telehealth has made medical care, and therapy in particular, more accessible. In this article, we’ll look at Zoom’s HIPAA compliance as it relates to both telehealth appointments and tele-supervision.
Neither Zoom’s free plan nor its pro plan is built to be HIPAA compliant. However, during the COVID-19 public health emergency, the Department of Health and Human Services has temporarily relaxed HIPAA enforcement. More on that below.
HIPAA-compliant Zoom for healthcare plans start at $200 per month.
In March of 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services issued guidance on telehealth remote communications during the COVID-19 crisis. This new guidance temporarily makes telehealth more accessible by removing penalties for HIPAA violations that occur when a provider is operating “in good faith.”
In other words, unless you’re conducting therapy sessions and supervision hours via Instagram Live, you’re probably okay. This means that all Zoom plans, including free and pro, can be used under HIPAA until further notice.
(You can check HHS’s news releases for the most up-to-date information.)
Still, it’s important to make sure you’re exercising caution to keep your clients’ PHI confidential. Make sure you’re following best practices for keeping your Zoom meetings private and secure.
Zoom for Healthcare is Zoom’s only HIPAA compliant video conferencing solution. When you subscribe, you’ll need to sign a business associate agreement, or BAA, in order to be HIPAA compliant.
A BAA is a contract between a HIPAA covered entity — in this case, you/your employer — and a third party business associate — in this case, Zoom — that handles protected health information (PHI).
As a business associate, Zoom can’t access its healthcare customers’ PHI, and they encrypt all their data — audio, video, and screen sharing — to keep it safe.
With so many telehealth solutions on the market, how do you know if Zoom is right for you? Let’s look at some pros and cons of the popular video conferencing platform.
Pros of Zoom for Healthcare
Cons of Zoom for Healthcare
All in all, Zoom is a good option for telehealth, but it’s less suited for tele-supervision. So, how can you remotely (and affordably) earn your supervision hours as a pre-licensed therapist?
Motivo is a HIPAA-compliant online marketplace connecting pre-licensed therapists with clinical supervisors. At a critical time for mental healthcare, we want to provide an easier and more efficient path to licensure.
I know from experience how tough it can be. When I was earning my hours to become an LMFT, I struggled to find a quality, affordable supervision within a reasonable distance. I ended commuting two hours each way to complete my supervision hours — but I knew there had to be a better way.
That’s when Motivo was born. With so many states allowing supervision hours to be collected online, through secure video-conference, we saw a better path forward for mental health professionals and the people they serve.
The Motivo platform is built on top of Zoom’s HIPAA compliant technology, so you can feel confident that your data is safe and secure. And as the first ever platform built specifically for supervision, it has all the tools you need to complete your hours online.
Benefits of Motivo for tele-supervision:
Zoom for Healthcare is HIPAA compliant, but the free and pro versions are not. However, during the COVID-19 public health emergency, HHS is not penalizing HIPAA violations that occur if a provider is acting “in good faith.” That means that all versions of Zoom are okay to use until further notice.
If, on the other hand, you’re looking for a HIPAA compliant way to find a supervisor and earn your hours from a distance, Motivo is the way to go. Learn more about Motivo here.
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