HIPAA-Compliant Video API: Bring Telehealth Video Calls to Your App

5 min read

Telehealth apps offer many helpful features, such as text-based chat, appointment scheduling, file sharing, payment options, and in-app notifications.

Frank L.
Frank L.
Published June 21, 2023

Some even integrate with wearable tech for remote patient monitoring. While not all of these apps are built the same, they should all offer video conferencing.

Video calling is crucial for telehealth apps as it enables a more personalized and interactive healthcare experience. Video calls facilitate real-time visual assessments, allowing providers to observe symptoms, conduct online examinations, and make more accurate diagnoses. They enhance communication, engagement, and trust between patients and healthcare providers, leading to improved health outcomes, increased accessibility to specialized care, and cost and time savings for both patients and healthcare systems.

Benefits of Introducing a Video Call Feature on Telehealth Apps

Building a video calling feature — or even using a pre-built, customizable feature through an API — requires resources, but it's worth the investment. Here's how a video calling feature can improve your app.

Saves Cost and Time for Both Parties

By eliminating the need for physical travel and the associated expenses, video calls reduce costs for patients and healthcare providers. Patients save on transportation, parking, and potential accommodation costs, while providers save on office space and overhead expenses. Additionally, video consultations reduce the time spent in waiting rooms, making healthcare more efficient for everyone involved.

Improves Healthcare Accessibility

Video calls also enable remote consultations, eliminating the need for patients to travel to healthcare facilities. This is particularly beneficial for individuals with limited mobility, those residing in remote areas, or those who have transportation challenges. It improves the accessibility to healthcare services for everyone.

With the help of video calling, patients can connect with healthcare providers remotely at a mutually convenient time. This reduces the time spent waiting for an appointment, especially for non-emergency cases. To put things into perspective, the average wait time for an appointment to see a physician in the U.S. is 26 days, and 31.4 days to see an obstetrician-gynecologist. Telehealth apps that support video calling can bring these numbers down significantly.

Video calls facilitate ongoing care and follow-up consultations. Patients can have regular virtual visits with their healthcare providers, promoting continuity of care and monitoring chronic conditions. This helps when managing long-term conditions, adjusting medications, and tracking progress without the need for frequent in-person visits.

Enhances the Quality of Communication Between Patients and Healthcare Providers

When it comes to the quality of communication between a healthcare provider and their patients, video calling is second only to in-person care. Video calls provide a more personal and interactive experience compared to audio or text-based communication. More than 90% of Americans used telehealth services in 2022.

Healthcare providers can see and hear patients, allowing for a better understanding of symptoms, visual assessments, and non-verbal cues. Certain medical conditions require visual examination, and video calling helps healthcare providers assess rashes, wounds, or physical symptoms on the call. This leads to more accurate diagnoses and treatment recommendations.

In short, video calling improves the experience for everyone and will increase the usage and adoption of your app.

Challenges in Introducing a Video Call Feature on Telehealth Apps

Building a video calling feature — especially in the telehealth space — comes with a few challenges.

Reliable Technical Infrastructure

Setting up a reliable and secure video call infrastructure can be complex. It requires robust servers, network bandwidth, and appropriate protocols to support smooth and uninterrupted video calls. Scaling the infrastructure to accommodate increasing user demand and maintaining high-quality video and audio connections can be resource intensive, too.

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You will either need to continue to add more servers or increase the capabilities (memory, processing power) of your current servers to handle the increased load. To overcome this challenge, you can opt for a cloud-based solution such as AWS or Azure that scales up and down as needed.

In addition to your own servers, you will also need to keep an eye on user-side app performance. Video calls rely heavily on stable internet connections. However, not all users may have access to high-speed internet or reliable networks. Connectivity issues can result in poor video and audio quality, lag, or dropped calls, hindering the effectiveness of telehealth consultations. You'll need to monitor your app's performance for user-side issues so you can let users know if their internet connection is not stable enough.

Revisiting the App's Interface

Introducing video calling will require careful design and testing because it will be a major transformation for your entire app. When you introduce a major new feature, such as video calling, you have to test it for compatibility across different devices, operating systems, and internet connections. You will also have to optimize the app's user interface for features that work with video calls, such as screen sharing and chat, and options to manage video and audio settings. 

Privacy and Security Concerns

Video calls in telehealth involve transmitting sensitive medical information between patients and healthcare providers. Maintaining the privacy and security of these communications is paramount. Ensuring end-to-end encryption, secure data transmission, and compliance with privacy regulations (such as HIPAA) can be challenging. Most telehealth apps also integrate with electronic health records (EHR) and other databases, so you'll have to make sure that data travels between the app and the relevant databases in a secure manner. You will also have to protect the app against attackers.

Building Your Own Feature vs. Using a Third-Party API

Consider choosing a third-party API for video call features instead of building your own. This allows you to leverage the expertise, infrastructure, and resources of established video communication providers, and third-party API providers can address all of the above challenges.

Using a third-party API is also a faster way of adding a video calling feature to your app. Building your own will require a dedicated team, infrastructure, and months of development. In comparison, you can set up an API and roll out the new video calling feature in a matter of weeks.

Qualities To Look for in a Video Call/Chat API

When choosing a video API, look for the following features:

1. HD video quality. Look for an API that supports HD video resolution and adaptive bitrate streaming. Without HD video, it would be difficult for healthcare providers to perform any kind of visual assessment online.

2. Security. Look for features such as end-to-end encryption and advanced user authentication and authorization mechanisms. This way, you'll protect sensitive patient information, prevent unauthorized access to video calls, and maintain data confidentiality.

3. Customization. Choose an API that offers customization options to match your application's branding and user experience requirements. Look for features like customizable user interfaces, branding options, and the ability to integrate seamlessly into your existing application infrastructure.

4. HIPAA compliance. HIPAA-compliant video conferencing must meet many requirements, such as end-to-end encryption, peer-to-peer connection, and password controls. Find a video call API that complies with the strict HIPAA requirements for data integrity, retention, and patient privacy.

Introduce Video Through a HIPAA-Compliant Video API Today

Developers face several major challenges when building HIPAA-compliant video features. They must:

  • Implement advanced encryption protocols and strong access controls.
  • Address the complexity of user authentication and authorization.
  • Tackle the challenge of maintaining audit logs and monitoring for any potential security breaches.
  • Place appropriate safeguards for data sharing and storage.

And still, they may end up building a feature that fails to comply with HIPAA regulations. Use a HIPAA-compliant video API to provide your users with video calling, and you'll see increased engagement and adoption of your app.

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