HIPPA relaxed, Jitsi available for medical professionals

A friend of mine was frustrated by having to use the telehealth video conferencing software for his practice as a doctor. He said the software is difficult to use, the video is awful (when it works), and the audio often only comes out as squeaks and blurps. He has been telling his patients he’ll call them on the phone for the audio. The only reason he used it at all was because it met the privacy law requirements in the United States, HIPPA.

But this morning, he wanted my recommendation for something better. He said the HIPPA rules for teleconferencing have been temporarily relaxed and doctors are being encouraged to use whatever works. He had already used (or attempted to use) six different programs and wasn’t happy with any of them.

I suggested he try https://meet.jit.si/. He created a room, I joined, and he was floored. He said, “This is amazing. I just tried Zoom, Skype, and Google Hangouts and Jitsi is by far the best! The quality is better and it was so simple. I can’t believe we’re already talking. I’m definitely going to be using Jitsi more.”

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By the way, here’s the conversation we had about why I personally prefer and advocate for Jitsi. My friend started by asking, “So, what did you mean it’s ‘ethically better software’? ”

“Ethically better for me,” I replied, “I don’t judge people who choose proprietary software. I’m sure there are ethical issues you see [as a doctor] that others don’t. As a computer scientist, I can’t help but see how proprietary software harms us, as a people. Everyone should have the freedom to change, improve, and share software with others. Jitsi is awesome because it is Free Software: the blueprints for it are public for all to see and build upon.”

“But, then how does this work if it can’t make any money?” he asked.

“Good question. Actually, it can. There’s a company called eight-by-eight — or maybe it’s eight-ex-eight? but, anyhow — they are funding meet.jit.si and businesses pay them to setup cloud services. For example, if your office wanted a HIPPA-compliant instance of Jitsi running on private servers, they’d be who I’d suggest you talk to first.”

“We might need to do that once this is all over. Thanks for showing me Jitsi. I’ve got to run: yet another teleconference, they want to update doctors on Covid-19.”