How to safely use virtual conferencing systems during the COVID-19 pandemic

Utilizing new resources in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic has become essential as we all learn to do business in new ways. One form of communication that has grown in popularity across all business platforms is virtual conferencing systems. Video streaming services are a great resource for agents to continue delivering the personal one-on-one experience to clients from the safety of their own homes.

So, what are some of the benefits of using a video conference platform to conduct normal business meetings? For one, they are simple to navigate for even those with little technological experience. Better yet, some are free or offer a free 30-day trial. On top of being cost-effective, many platforms have features that allow users to blur their background and set their microphones on mute to minimize background noise. The low cost and ease with which these platforms operate makes for a comfortable experience for any user.

Take a look, for example, at the platform Zoom. In the last several weeks, chances are you’ve either heard of it or even used it yourself. A free and easy-to-use platform, Zoom’s popularity has skyrocketed since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic as the go-to video conferencing system for everything from conference calls to personal chats between families. In March alone, the average number of people using Zoom went from the usual 10 million per day prior to the COVID-19 pandemic to a whopping 200 million per day. Free and easy to use, Zoom has quickly become a popular format on which to conduct communications both business-related and for personal use.

Zoom is a great example of how not everything that is easy and cheap to use is always the best option. Over the past several weeks, multiple security breaches have come to light with Zoom, many of which resulted in compromised user information and has even brought about several lawsuits.

Some of the recently uncovered security breaches on Zoom include “Zoombombing,” which occurs when someone joins a call uninvited and proceeds to harass the members of the call through using slurs or offensive language or behaviors to disrupt the meeting, to personal data leaks and a lack of end-to-end encryption. According to TechRepublic, the lack of security has led 12% of users to discontinue their use altogether of the popular video website.

As an agent handling sensitive information about clients, you have a responsibility to safeguard client information and as such cannot take the risk of using an unregulated platform.

So, what are the alternatives?

The good news is that there are plenty of platforms that are secure for use with clients. Platforms such as Microsoft Teams and GoToMeetings have proven to be compliant platforms in which users can safely conduct meetings that will not be breached or hacked by an outside source.

The bad news, however, is that most compliant platforms aren’t free. Microsoft Teams requires a subscription to Microsoft Office and is more often used between colleagues than those outside the company network. However, there is a feature that allows users to add guest users from outside their organization to a call that will restrict their access to your data. For a short video on Microsoft Teams, click here.

Though it has a monthly subscription fee, GoToMeetings has been approved by MNSure as a HIPAA-compliant tool. Before use, there are several procedures that agents should be aware of. Click here for more information on MNSure’s Virtual Meetings Policy.

Remember when conducting a Medicare virtual meeting that it must be CMS compliant.

  • You need a signed scope of appointment. This can be mailed, emailed, or an eScope can be used if available.
  • Mail or email an enrollment kit to your client
  • Use a carriers PURL or electronic enrollment link if they are available for that plan

While security breaches on certain online platforms could have been avoided with tighter protection from the platform itself, it is not just the system that must be compliant– users must do their part as well. The risk lies not only in using the program, but in how it is used. Many breaches are caused through user error, such as clicking bad attachments that contain spam. While certain platforms need to tighten up their security measures, users are responsible for taking their own precautions to reduce the chances of picking up a computer virus that may lead to compromised client information.

Don’t let the above information scare you off from using virtual platforms to conduct business with your clients; simply take it as a reminder that not everything is as secure as it may seem. LeClair Group is not endorsing use of GoToMeeting or Microsoft Teams–we recognize the advantage of using a virtual platform approved by State and Federal regulators as a good basis for any decisions. We expect ZOOM to respond with security fixes in due course. There are many platforms out there that are safe for use among clients and agents that are safeguarded against security breaches. Do your research to determine which platform is best for you and take the necessary precautions to ensure that client information, as well as your own, is safe.

For more information on how to best utilize virtual platforms, see the links below: