Video Call Systems

Video Call Systems

What We Need To Know

When you decide to start practicing online, choosing a video call system to meet your clients on might seem daunting, especially if you are not technically minded. For those experienced practitioners and those who are just starting out online, these reviews will help to make it stress free, and will assist you choosing the right video call system for you.

One important aspect to think about is the level of technical knowledge that our online clients will have. Clients as well as therapists need a simple system that they can click on, and they’re there with you. That simplicity can have a huge impact on the relationship, and so the video call systems we review are simple, clear and efficient.

Another key aspect to keep in mind is the data security (personal information) that video call systems provide. This is in order to keep us, and our clients/patients secure and legally safe. The video call systems we review here are all GDPR compliant. There’s more information about data security for healthcare practitioners who are EU based (GDPR) and for USA based (HIPAA) here. In line with data security, Skype needs to be briefly mentioned.

Video Call Systems

Skype

Skype does offer some degree of security that protects online communication but not enough at the moment. Skype announced in 2018 that it’s in the process of testing a more secure system. However, up until that time, if you choose to use Skype, it’s wise to ensure that the client knowingly and expressly consents. They can do this by signing your Informed Consent Form Agreement that states that its use will add an element of insecurity. This is in relation to the confidentiality of information that is beyond the control of either you or them.

Now I hear you say, we can never get 100% guarantee (i.e. hackers etc.), which is true but it’s more about trying our best to legally comply and meet the ethical framework that we adhere to, and which fundamentally underpins our profession as mental health practitioners. That’s why more and more healthcare practitioners are choosing to use the more secure and free video call systems.

Video Call App

Most Secure, Free and Paid For Video Call Systems

WhereToTalk recognises that when counsellors, therapists and psychologists make a decision to choose which video call system to work with, it’s important to find out how their peers experience using it. WhereToTalk gathers reviews alongside healthcare practitioners’ opinions across a wide range of social media sites to help you make an informed decision.

The key thing is to choose one that sits comfortably with what’s important for you. That might be not having to download the video software although they’re all easy to download, or preferring one that specialises in online healthcare, or perhaps simply liking the idea of an automatic pop up helpline on their Home Page. In other words, it’s really more about personal preference.

There are many secure video call systems that are designed for online counselling and therapy. Two of the most preferred and used by UK counsellors, therapists and psychologists are Zoom and VSee.

Girl on a Video Call

General Description of Zoom and VSee

Zoom and VSee provide online 1-to-1 meetings and group meetings, usually referred to as video conferencing. They can all be used on most desktop, tablet or mobile devices, and offer file sharing and screen sharing. They offer a free version for online appointments and sessions via video call, audio and instant chat/messaging. They allow you to create virtual meeting rooms that your clients can enter by clicking on a link. They are easy to install and once in the meeting, you can do the same things (if not more) that you can do with Skype. Different levels of packages for both Zoom and VSee are available.

These two reviews are in no particular order.

Zoom Video Call

Starting Out

An email, password and filling in a short profile section is all that’s needed to set up a Zoom account. There are useful video tutorials and a free demonstration by their sales team. Before hosting a meeting and inviting a friend for practice, I did need to contact their support contact even after a tutorial run, as there were lots of features and options to understand. I found their sales team to be extremely supportive, particularly my personal sales support ‘Nick’ who helped me a lot.
Once your trial guest has a Zoom account and has downloaded the software, which is easy to do, there is a choice where you can schedule a meeting for later, or host one straightaway by email or messaging. When I met with my first guest (friend) online, the sound and picture quality was extremely clear with absolutely no time delay.

Features

Zoom features HD video and high quality audio for a comfortable experience for you and your clients/patients. The Instant Chat and Group Message features also connect to Zoom’s efficient support team.

There is a calendaring system and a professional scheduling display. You can see virtual waiting room availability and book a meeting for any empty slot that day. Zoom’s whiteboard option is also a useful feature if you like to work visually and present diagrams.

As the host you have control over when to end the meeting, of course the client/patient can leave at their own will. Once in the meeting room there are options to move or make the video display larger or smaller, and you can message and record the conversation if you wish. Both you and your client/patient have access to the screenshare option, although you can lock this if required.

Client / Patient experience:

When you invite a client/patient via email, they can follow the link you send and they’re guided through a short download process to join the meeting. It’s a quick and simple process for even the least technically minded.

Free and Paid Packages

Free Version – ‘Basic Plan’

  • Unlimited 1-to-1 meetings
  • Group meetings (restricted to 40 minutes)
  • Online support
  • Live messaging / Chat
  • Accessible on iOS / Android both web-based, mobile devices / tablets
  • GDPR compliant
  • You can use the free version and upgrade if you wish

Paid Versions – Pro: $11.99 a month / Business: $15.99 a month

‘Pro’ version and ‘Business’ version provide all the features that the Free Basic Plan version provides, plus they offer a vast selection of other features.
For example, the Free ‘Basic Plan’ allows you to record locally to your computer. However, with the paid-for ‘Pro-Plan’, you get 1GB of cloud storage to record directly and this provides you with a sharable link that you can send out. Another extra feature is that the paid-For Plans offer unlimited minutes for group meetings. There is a specific breakdown of all the extra features available on their website.

https://www.zoom.us/pricing

Security:

Zoom is a USA based company with servers in the USA. For Europe based users, Zoom participates in and has certified its compliance with the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield Framework and the Swiss-U.S. Privacy Shield.

Official Statement on Zoom’s GDPR compliance

https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/360000126326-Official-Statement-EU-GDPR-Compliance

Zoom’s Privacy Policy

https://www.zoom.us/privacy

If you are USA based and would like to be HIPAA compliant, you can purchase a signed BAA (HIPAA Business Associate Agreement) through a business option.

HIPAA /BAA

https://support.zoom.us/hc/en-us/articles/207652183-HIPAA-Business-Associate-Agreement-BAA-

Key Points
  • Zoom has a telehealth page and great for personal meetings
  • The free version ‘Basic Plan’ includes unlimited 1-to-1 meetings
  • Can be used on most desktop, ipads or mobile devices
  • Zoom’s Home Page has a quick and helpful automatic pop up help-line
  • Support is readily available plus tutorials and demos provided
  • Zoom does require you to download it, although it is easy to install
  • You send the link to your client and they click on the invitation to join you in your virtual room.
  • The system has file sharing and screenshare.
  • After initial set up and entering the meeting room the system is very straightforward to follow.
  • The quality of sound and video was excellent
Note:
  • For group meetings, the free version only offers 40-minute meeting sessions, although you can resume a group meeting by restarting a new session.
  • It can take a bit of time getting used to the process as there are so many features and options available, particularly if you’re not tech savvy but after your first meeting it becomes much easier.

VSee VIDEO CALL

Starting Out

As with Zoom (above) VSee needs to be downloaded. However, when tested, I found the installation process to be quick and straightforward, much easier than expected. Information on setting up was easy to find and I only needed an email address and login. A free demonstration helped to show me around the platform. However, unlike Zoom’s automatic pop-up helpline on their homepage, VSee only have a Contact Sales button that takes you to email support only. As the sales teams live in different countries, the sales team answered within a day so the time difference was felt. I personally felt that Zoom’s pop-up helpline was much more efficient.
Before you make a call, the interface has a familiar Internet messaging/chat service to it with the names of people you know showing. When tested, VSee presented no problems whatsoever with audio or video, and there were no delays at all, which was impressive.

Features

Similar to Zoom, VSee’s features include HD video and high quality audio for a comfortable experience. There is an option to embed an invitation link into your email signature or website or invite clients via an email address. One feature that is excellent for anyone on a slow Internet connection, (i.e. rural and remote areas or developing countries etc.) is the low bandwidth VSee uses, this allows for a more reliable Internet connection. You can also choose the size and position of the video by dragging from the corner and then position on the screen. The Vsee messaging/chat box that comes up on the screen allows you to check if the person is there and chat if necessary.

Client/Patient Experience

Even those who are new to video calling can easily learn to use VSee. You simply click on a name to call, it’s incredibly simple, there’s no searching around to receive a call or to end a call. After following the link in the email invitation, the client/patient creates a Vsee account that starts a simple download and displays an address book that lets them know who has invited them. For any client/patient who feels really uncomfortable using technology, there is also an option to connect without creating an account. Although this way will offer them a much easier process, Vsee encourages the creation of an account, as it provides access to other features within the system.

Free and Paid Packages

Free Version – ‘Basic Messenger’

  • Group video
  • Text chat + picture-send
  • File send
  • 1 screen share per day
  • Accessible on iOS / Android both web-based, mobile devices / tablets
  • No BAA

Paid Version – Pro-Messenger $49.00 a month

  • Group video
  • Text chat + picture-send
  • File send
  • Unlimited screen share
  • HIPAA (BAA) included
  • Priority support (business hours)

‘Pro-Messenger’ version provides all the features that the Free ‘Basic Messenger’ version provides. Plus for USA based healthcare practitioners, a signed BAA (HIPAA Business Associate Agreement) is included and unlimited screenshare. There is a detailed breakdown of all the extra features on their website.

https://vsee.com/messenger

Security

VSee boasts a high level of security. They use end-to-end encryption where your conversation is always private and confidential. It’s encrypted with secure military-grade 256-bit AES encryption. Not only is VSee the official communication system provider for NASA, and used by astronauts aboard the International Space Station, it was also approved by US Congress for use behind their firewall. So although Zoom is perfectly secure for most practitioners and businesses, for anyone whose absolute priority is security, VSee might be the one for you.

https://www.privacyshield.gov/Key-New-Requirements
https://vsee.com/privacy/

Key Points
  • VSee is specifically designed for the healthcare user
  • VSee is the official communication system providers for NASA
  • Many use VSee because it’s widely used by medical professionals in the USA
  • VSee does require you to download it although it is easy to install
  • You send the link to your client and they click on the invitation to join you in your virtual room.
  • VSee requires considerably less bandwidth and therefore is ideal for people in developing countries where Internet speed is not so fast.

Video Call Top Tips

  • Always let your client know prior to the meeting that if there is a technical problem during the session, you will communicate via email or messaging in relation to the problem, so that your client does not feel lost.
  • The type of device you and your client are connected to and utilise affects usability.
  • It depends on your broadband speed, and your client’s broadband speed. If you’re having problems (glitches etc.), check your connection first. The chances are that it’s your Wi-Fi connection!
  • Plugging in the Ethernet cable and disconnect from Wi-Fi helps for a smoother connection.
Video Call on a Mobile

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