Written by Lucy Peters
More employees are working from home today than ever before — as many as 9.8 million Americans worked remotely in 2019 before the pandemic hit, Pew Research reveals. When it doesn’t compromise patient care, healthcare organizations can benefit from implementing work-from-home programs, which reduce staff burnout, improve care coordination, and boost patient revenue. Some healthcare roles can be successfully performed from home, however, healthcare organizations must take care to establish clear guidelines and provide the necessary equipment and technology.
Incorporating work-from-home programs
Telehealth is a relatively new service replacing in-person appointments; it allows healthcare professionals to diagnose and treat patients effectively via virtual appointments. Video chat software is all that’s required to facilitate telehealth. Physicians therefore only need to appear in-office for the most acute patients. Staff who support patients without dealing with them directly — in the fields of marketing, claims management, medical records management, and patient intake, for example — can also work from home efficiently. Healthcare organizations will generally find some tasks need to be performed in person while others more flexible can be done remotely. Most simply, this could mean sharing office spaces on set days to treat patients, while staff then work from home on the other days of the week.
Secure technology and HIPAA compliance
Remote workers must continue to be HIPAA compliant and protect the organization’s network, sensitive data, and electronic personal health information (ePHI). Workers who handle electronic health records will need to use VPNs (virtual private networks) to access them at home. Devices and apps should be encrypted and password protected (two-factor authentication provides maximum security). Additionally, any devices used to view ePHI should always have up-to-date security software installed. Cloud-based communication systems allow workers to collaborate remotely, however any systems used should be third-party certified for security standards (the HITRUST CSF certification is most widely used in the healthcare industry).
Injury and worker’s rights
Remote workers can still be prone to workplace injuries — slips, trips, and falls being some of the most common. Poor home-office setups can also increase risk of objects falling from shelves, burns from hot drinks, or ankle sprains from going up or down the stairs. In fact, healthcare organizations may ask employees to perform a risk evaluation of their home office space; this can be used to identify and eliminate potential issues that may cause injuries. Injuries sustained by remote workers are covered by workers’ compensation law as long as they occurred during completion of a work-related task during work hours. Healthcare professionals can strengthen their chances of receiving compensation if their employer specifically instructed them to work remotely and provided necessary equipment to perform their duties.
It’s possible for many healthcare professionals today to work from home while continuing to provide excellent patient care and service and adhere to industry regulations. Healthcare organizations should always provide workers with the equipment and technology needed to fulfil their roles safely and efficiently.