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Google Meet and Epic for Telehealth: Cambridge Health Alliance Kicks off the First Partnership

While many medical practices have been moving towards adding telehealth capabilities, the COVID-19 pandemic pushed some to offer it much more quickly than anyone was expecting. Some practices jumped in feet first, even though they weren’t entirely ready. They handed out tablets or sent clinicians home with laptops to connect with patients through various platforms.

The federal government granted a temporary waiver to use non-compliant HIPAA platforms during the emergency period. While that helped get some telehealth initiatives off the ground, it put patients and healthcare systems at significant risk. Not all video platforms are equipped with the security needed to protect personal health information. Patients may not realize that their connections could expose their medical records and their conversations.

Cambridge Health Alliance (CHA) was one organization that was inching towards telehealth. However, given the immediate need to provide safe care during a pandemic, this Massachusetts regional health system accelerated their project. Their goal was to launch in just weeks, instead of months or more.

CHA is a Harvard-affiliated system with two acute care hospitals, 13 community care centers, and 125,000 primary care patients. They were an early adopter of the Epic electronic health record, with more than 15 years of experience with the platform. But they had just recently upgraded their system and needed support to quickly meet the needs of patients and providers. With Maven Wave’s help, CHA was up-and-running with groundbreaking, HIPAA-compliant Google Meet videoconferencing capabilities integrated with Epic in a few short weeks. CHA kicked off its usage with ambulatory primary care and specialty services.

How it Works

When patients make a telehealth appointment, their event is created in the Epic MyCHArt system. After clicking the link at the appointment time, they sign an online consent form and join a virtual waiting room. When ready, the provider clicks a link in their calendar, which creates the visit in Google Meet; this enables the patient to join.

Anyone with consent to access the patient’s MyCHArt profile can access the telehealth link and attend the visit. This includes parents/guardians and those with power of attorney. The patient can also share the invitation by email or phone once the visit starts, including interpreters or family members if the patient prefers.

Traditionally, with a Google Meet created in a calendar invite, the patient’s name would be featured, potentially exposing personally identifiable information (PII) including email addresses. And patients would also be able to see the provider’s email address, which is a concern. To resolve this, Maven Wave built a connector and a shadow calendar to house telehealth Meets. This declutters the provider’s calendar and hides contact information from other participants.

Easy Set Up

Epic integration makes it easy for providers to access Google Meet and conduct a telehealth visit. The provider simply needs a microphone and camera, and access to the Chrome browser or the Meet mobile app. Providers also need a G Suite license to access Google Meet, which is available for free through the end of September as part of G Suite Essentials.

Maven Wave’s connector runs in Google Cloud’s serverless App Engine. The system scales to any provider size required without operator intervention. The connector includes raw smart FHIR support, which only allows those who are authenticated into the tool on the provider side when launching Meet. The custom skin created by Maven Wave provides branding for the healthcare system’s virtual waiting room.

Maven Wave adapted Google Meet to work with Epic, as an endorsable extension. Using open-source API code, Google Meet is an allowable use within that program.

Maven Wave can create the connector quickly, but that is just one step. With Maven Wave’s help, the healthcare system must implement the necessary organizational change management for people, processes, and technology. This includes internal business processes, identification of which stakeholders to include, communications around the new system, and the design of the skin.

Google Meet Advantages

In addition to being user friendly, Google Meet offers critical security. Throughout the pandemic, security breaches have increased. Reports of outsiders hacking into video conferencing platforms and other cybersecurity issues have made providers understandably nervous about telehealth. The Google – Epic integration accounts for those issues. The patient can enter the waiting room, but cannot initiate the telehealth visit. The Meet does not actually exist until the provider launches it by clicking the button in their calendar. This makes it difficult to spoof.

Because Google Meet is part of G Suite, users will encounter no additional or ongoing fees. Plus the technology is isolated for that suite of applications. The Google Meet application doubles as a general-purpose video platform that can also be used internally for meetings. It’s easy for providers to adopt.
CHA has used the connector framework in multiple languages. To better serve their communities, CHA incorporated four languages in their first release: Spanish, Portuguese, Haitian-Creole and English. More languages can easily be added to the consent page and skin.

As the first Google partner to create this Epic connector for Google Meet for telehealth, we’re ready to show you how easy it is to adopt and get your healthcare system on board with an economical and secure telehealth system. Contact us to learn more.

June 11th, 2020

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