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Has the Google Glass Hype Passed?

Posted on September 23, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 13 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

It seems to me that the hype over Google Glass is done. Enough people started using them and many couldn’t see the apparent value. In fact, some are wondering if Google will continue to invest in it. They’ve gone radio silent on Google Glass from what I’ve seen. We’ll see if they’re planning to abandon the project or if they’re just reloading.

While the future of Google Glass seems unsure to me, I think the idea of always on, connected computing is still alive and well. Whether it’s eyeware, a watch or dome other wearable doesn’t matter to me. Always on, connected computing is a powerful concept.

I’m also interested in the telemedicine and second screen approaches that have been started using Google Glass in Healthcare. Both of these concepts will be an important part of the fabric of health care going forward.

I still remember the wow factor that occurred when I first used Google Glass. It still amazes me today. I just wish it were a little more functional and didn’t hurt my eyes when I used it for long periods.

What do you think of Google Glass and the category of always on computing?  Do you see something I’m missing?

Is The Future of Smart Clothing Modular or Integrated?

Posted on September 4, 2014 I Written By

Kyle is Founder and CEO of Pristine, a company in Austin, TX that develops telehealth communication tools optimized for Google Glass in healthcare environments. Prior to founding Pristine, Kyle spent years developing, selling, and implementing electronic medical records (EMRs) into hospitals. He also writes for EMR and HIPAA, TechZulu, and Svbtle about the intersections of healthcare, technology, and business. All of his writing is reproduced at kylesamani.com

OMSignal recently raised $10M to build sensors into smart clothes. Sensoria recently raised $5M in pursuit of the same mission, albeit using different tactics. Meanwhile, Apple hired the former CEO of Burberry, Angela Ahrendts, to lead its retail efforts.

And Google is pushing Android Wear in a major way, with significant adoption and uptake by OEMs.

There’re two distinct approaches that are evolving in the smart clothing space. OMSignal, Sensoria, and Apple are taking a full-stack, vertical approach. OMSignal and Sensoria are building sensors into clothing and selling their own clothes directly to consumers. Although Apple hasn’t announced anything to compete with OMSignal or Sensoria, it’s clear they’re heading into the smart clothing space in traditional Apple fashion with the launch of Health, the impending launch of the iWatch, and the hiring of Angela Ahrendts.

Google, on the other hand, is licensing Android Wear to OEM vendors in traditional Google fashion: by providing the operating system and relevant Google Services to OEMs who can customize and configure and compete on retail and marketing. Although Google is yet to announce partnerships with any more traditional clothing vendors, it’s inevitable that they’ll license Android Wear to more traditional fashion brands that want to produce smart, sensor-laden clothing.

Apple’s vertically-integrated model is powerful because it allows Apple to pioneer new markets that require novel implementations utilizing intertwined software and hardware. Pioneering a new factor is especially difficult when dealing with separate hardware and software vendors and all of the associated challenges: disparate P&Ls, different visions, and unaligned managerial mandates. However, once the new form factor is understood, modular hardware and software companies can quickly optimize each component to drive down costs and create new choices for consumers. This approached has been successfully played out in the PC, smartphone, and tablet form factors.

Apple’s model is not well-suited to being the market leader in terms of raw volume. Indeed, Apple optimizes towards the high end, not the masses and this strategy has served them well. But it will be interesting to see how they, along with other vertically integrated smart-clothing vendors, approach the clothing market. Fashion is already an established industry that is predicated on variety, choice, and personalization; these traits are the antithesis of the Apple model. There’s no way that 20% or even 10% of the population will wear t- shirts, polos, tank tops, dresses, business clothes, etc., (which I’ll collectively call the “t-shirt market”) made by a single company. No one company can so single-handedly dominate the t-shirt market. People simply desire too many choices for that to happen.

OMSignal and Sensoria don’t need to worry about this problem as much as Apple since they’re targeting niche use cases in fitness and health. However, as they scale and set their sites on the mass consumer market, they will need to figure out a strategy to drive massive personalization. Apple, given its scale and brand, will need to address the personalization problem in the t- shirt market before they enter it.

The t-shirt market is going to be exciting to watch over the coming decades. There are enormous opportunities to be had. Let the best companies win!

Feel free to a drop a comment with how you think the market will play out. Will the startups open up their sensors to 3rd party clothing companies? Will Apple? How will Google counteract?

The House Call of the Future – Breakaway Thinking

Posted on July 16, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 13 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

The following is a guest blog post by Jennifer Bergeron, Learning and Development Manager at The Breakaway Group (A Xerox Company). Check out all of the blog posts in the Breakaway Thinking series.
Jennifer_web
The closest I’ve come to experiencing a house call was watching Dr. Baker on “Little House on the Prairie” visit the good folks of Walnut Grove. Today, most people have no choice but to trek to their doctors’ offices and hospitals for health maintenance, diagnoses and check-ups. But new technologies are returning the personalized attention of the house call and will need to be adopted to retain the convenience and accessibility they offer.

I haven’t met anyone with a practice like Dr. Baker’s, though I recently read a news article that highlights the comeback of the house call. Some practitioners are banding together to provide round-the-clock care to patients who benefit from the fast response and lower cost: If a deductible or copay is higher than the price of the doctor’s visit, the patient may opt for the home visit.(1) The updated versions of the house call, however, are born of the technology used for telehealth, mobile health and health stations.

Telehealth allows a person to connect with a provider via the Internet. Patient and doctor can video conference, share informational media, and experience a face-to-face interaction without either party traveling from his or her home or office.(2) This allows patients better access to specialists who may have been too far away to visit and more frequent care at the right time to reduce the chances of serious complications or hospitalization. For patients who require frequent care over time, telehealth enables them to receive the medical attention they need while staying near their support network.(4) For providers, access to networks of specialists who can provide remote consultation helps them retain and ensure the highest level of care for patients rather than refer patients to another location.(3)

Both patients and providers also save time and money when there is no commute to an office or to a patient’s home. This is especially true of patients who live in rural areas and have to travel long distances for care. The quicker a patient can connect with the right specialist to treat or prevent serious illness, the lower the overall cost of care. (3)

Mobile health, or mHealth, takes technology one step further by allowing providers to track and monitor patient health on mobile devices such as tablets or phones. This includes monitoring devices that measure heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen levels, blood glucose and body weight. mHealth can be used in the office or taken on the road the way mobile clinics do. When healthcare is mobile, the ability to bring a doctor’s office to a neighborhood gives access to communities that otherwise wouldn’t seek or know how to find care. Currently, all 50 U.S. states have mobile clinics.(4)

Another trend in the making is the health kiosk. These look like private pods, about the size of four phone booths side by side. Think of it as telehealth combined with a mobile clinic. HealthSpot, a provider of health kiosks, describes them as “the access point to better healthcare.”(5) In addition to providing interaction with healthcare professionals via video conferencing, each station has an attendant and an automatic cleaning system. HealthSpot aims to give patients a private, personal, efficient experience.

Healthcare is on the move to better accommodate our lives, schedules, family structures and communities, which have vastly evolved from the “Little House on the Prairie” days and even from a decade ago. At the same time, our industry faces challenges in making the new technologies simple to use in order for them to be effective. With telehealth, for example, people typically need help setting up a home system and technical assistance. Meanwhile, providers face communicating and documenting in a new environment.

As we enter this new, modern, faster era of healthcare, both patients and providers will need to learn how to implement and adopt new systems, technologies and ways of interacting. Easing adoption is what we are prepared to do at The Breakaway Group. Once the learning-and-comfort curve is overcome, patients can experience the convenience of Dr. Baker’s updated home visit.

References:
(1) Godoy, Maria, (December 19, 2005). A Doctor at the Door: House Calls Make Comeback.
(2) Health Resources and Services Administration Rural Health, (2012). Telehealth.
(3) Hands on telehealth, (2013). 15 Benefits of telehealth.
(4) Hill, C., Powers, B., Jain, S., Bennet, J., Vavasis, A., and Oriol, N. (March 20, 2014). Mobile Health Clinics in the Era of Reform.
(5) The HealthSpot Station.

Xerox is a sponsor of the Breakaway Thinking series of blog posts.

Understanding Apple Health

Posted on June 17, 2014 I Written By

Kyle is Founder and CEO of Pristine, a company in Austin, TX that develops telehealth communication tools optimized for Google Glass in healthcare environments. Prior to founding Pristine, Kyle spent years developing, selling, and implementing electronic medical records (EMRs) into hospitals. He also writes for EMR and HIPAA, TechZulu, and Svbtle about the intersections of healthcare, technology, and business. All of his writing is reproduced at kylesamani.com

Apple recently announced Health and Healthkit as part of iOS 8, and initial responses have been mixed.

At one extreme, the (highly biased) CEO of Mayo Clinic called Apple Health “revolutionary.” At the other, cynical health IT pundits claim that Apple Health is a consumer novelty and won’t crack the enigmatic healthcare system. As a cynical health IT pundit myself, I’m more inclined towards the latter, but have some optimism about Apple’s first steps into healthcare.

For the uninitiated, Apple Health is a central dashboard for health related information, packaged for consumers as an iOS app. Consumers open the app and see a broad array of clinical indicators (e.g. as physical activity, blood pressure, blood glucose, sleep data). You can learn more about Health and Healthkit from Apple.

The rest of this post assumes significant understanding of modern health IT challenges such as data silos, EMPIs, HIEs, and an understanding of what Health and Healthkit can and can’t do. I’ll address what Apple Health does well, ask some questions, and then provide some commentary.

Apple Health does a few things well:

1) Apple Health acts as a central dashboard for consumers. Rather than switching between five different apps, Health provides a central view of all clinical indicators. In time, Health could help patients understand the nuances of their own data. By removing friction to seeing a variety of indicators in a single view, patients may discover correlations that they wouldn’t have observed before. With that information, consumers should be able to adjust behaviors to lead healthier lifestyles.

2) Apple Health provides a robust mechanism for health apps to share data with one another. Until now, health app developers needed to form partnerships with one another and develop custom code to share information; now they can do this in a standardized way with minimal technical or administrative overhead. This reduces app lock-in by enabling data liquidity, empowering consumers to switch to the best health app or device and carry data between apps. This is a big win for consumers.

Unanswered questions:

1) How does Apple Health actually work? Apple provided virtually no details. Does the patient need the Epic MyChart app on their phone? Is there custom code integrating iOS to Epic MyChart? Is there a Mayo Clinic app that is separate from Epic MyChart? If not, how does Apple Health know that the consumer is a Mayo patient? Or a Kaiser Permanente patient? Or a Sutter Health patient?

2) Does the patient give consent per data value, or is it all or nothing? How long does consent last? Must consent be taken at the hospital, or can the patient opt in or out any time on their phone? Who within the health system can access the consented data?

3) Given that there are hundreds of EpicCare silos and dozens of CareEverywhere silos, how does Apple Health decide which silo(s) to interface with? Does data go to an HIE or to an EMR? If to an HIE, can all eligible connected providers access the data with consent? If a patient has records in multiple HIEs and EMRs (which they likely do), how does Apple Health determine which HIE(s) to push and pull data from?

4) Does Apple Health support non-numerical data such as CCDAs? What about unstandardized data? For example, PatientIO allows providers to develop customized care plans for patients that can include almost any behavioral prescription. Examples include water intake, exercising at a certain time of the day, taper schedules, etc.

5) Can providers write back to a patient’s Health profile? Given that open.epic doesn’t allow Epic to send data out, how could Apple Health receive data from Epic?

7) How will Apple handle competing health apps installed on the same consumer’s phone? For example, if I tap “more diabetes info” in Apple Health, will it open Mayo Clinic’s app (and if so, to the right place in the Mayo Clinic app?) or the blood glucose tracking app that came with with my blood glucose meter? Or my iTriage or WebMD app?

8) Is Apple Health intended to function as a patient-centric HIE? If so, what standards does it support? CCDA? FHIR? Direct?

Comments:

1) The Apple-Epic partnership is obviously built on open.epic, which Epic announced in September of 2013. It’s likely that Apple and Epic reached an agreement around that time, and asked the public for ideas on how to shape the program to get a sense of what developers wanted.

2) The only way to succeed in health IT is to force the industry to conform to one’s standards, or to support a hybrid of hybrids approach. Early indicators show Apple (predictably) trending toward the former. Unfortunately, Apple’s perennially Apple-centric approach inhibits supporting the level of interoperability necessary to power an effective consumer health strategy. Although Apple provides a great foundation for some basic functions, the long term potential based on the current offering is limited. What Apple has produced to date provides for sexy screenshots, but appears to fall short of addressing the core interoperability and connectivity issues that plague chronic disease management and coordination of care.

3) In a hypothetical world at some indeterminate point in the future, there would be a patient-facing, DNS-like lookup system for provider organizations (Direct eventually?). Patients should be able to lookup provider organizations and share their data with providers selectively. Apple Health provides a great first step towards that dream world by empowering patients to see and, to some extent, control their own data.

7 Mobile Apps Every Doctor Should Have

Posted on June 16, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 13 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

The following is a guest blog post by Cliff McClintick, chief operating officer of Doc Halo. Cincinnati-based Doc Halo sets the professional standard for health care communication offering secure messaging for physicians, medical practices, hospitals and healthcare organizations. The Doc Halo secure messaging solution is designed to streamline HIPAA-compliant physician and medical clinician sharing of critical patient information within a secure environment.

For many physicians, the days of manila folders and paper charts are a distant memory.

For many others, they never existed.

But patient records are only one area where technology is redefining how doctors work. Newer tools, especially mobile apps, are taking the place of 3,000-page reference books, phone-tag inducing pagers and even plastic anatomical models.

About 78 percent of physicians in a Kantar Media survey released in January said they used smartphones for both professional and personal tasks. They had downloaded an average of seven apps in the last six months.

Here are a few app categories that can make any doctor’s life easier:

  • Drug database. The old way to find out about a drug — what it does, proper dosing, potential interactions — was to flip through a rather large tome. Web-based drug databases eliminated much of the page-turning, and now mobile apps are making the process even handier.
  • Journal reference. Doctors are increasingly relying on mobile devices to help them keep up with research in their field. About 21 percent of physicians use smartphones to read medical journals, according to Kantar Media, and 28 percent use tablets to read them. The New England Journal of Medicine makes recent articles, along with images, audio and video, available through its free NEJM This Week app for iPhone and iPod Touch. Many other medical publishers have similar offerings.
  • Secure texting. Physicians text as much as anybody. Regular SMS text messages, however, are not HIPAA-compliant. Physician messaging platforms developed by companies such as Doc Halo allow doctors to text about work while keeping their patients’ health information safe. Features to look for include encryption with federally validated standards, limited data life for messages and a remote mobile wipe option in case the phone is lost. Secure texting eliminates the games of phone tag caused by the pagers that are still in use at many hospitals.
  • EMR. Records are going mobile, too, with large and small EMR vendors alike releasing mobile apps. In a survey last year, Black Book Rankings found that only 8 percent of doctors used a mobile device for accessing patients records, ordering tests, viewing results or ordering medications. But 83 percent said they would do so if their current EMR had the capability.
  • Image viewer. Several apps now let doctors view X-ray, CT, MRI and other diagnostic images on their mobile devices. Physicians get an initial impression based on the app and then take a closer look when they get to a full imaging workstation with higher resolution. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulates these apps as medical devices.
  • Billing. These apps help physicians capture diagnoses and billing codes on the go, such as when seeing patients in the hospital. Doctors can instantly transmit the data to their front desk or a billing company, speeding up payment and reducing the chance of lost charges.
  • Patient education. These apps, which are often specialty-specific, allow doctors to call up images and even videos of body parts and their functions — and malfunctions. For example, a cardiologist might use a video showing what mitral valve prolapse looks like. Plastic models look nice, and they’re a great way for patients to get a hands-on sense of certain conditions and treatments. But they’ll never match the number of structures and processes these apps can illustrate.

No app can replace the knowledge and skill that a physician develops through years of training and experience. These mobile tools provide convenience and remove barriers to efficient practice, allowing doctors to spend more time on patient care.

Doc Halo, a leading secure physician communication application, is a proud sponsor of the Healthcare Scene Blog Network.

mHealth and Where It’s Heading with Alan Portela

Posted on May 27, 2014 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 15 blogs containing almost 6000 articles with John having written over 3000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 13 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

One of my favorite healthcare IT people to interview is Alan Portela, CEO of AirStrip. Having been in the healthcare IT industry and seen it from so many angles, he always has some interesting insight into what’s happening in the industry. It’s hard to understand the value that having attended HIMSS almost as many years I’ve been alive (Ok, not quite, but not too far off either) provides.

With this as a preface, I think you’ll really enjoy this interview I did with Alan. We talk about how to build a successful mHealth application, the changing EHR market, and the impact of FDA regulation. He provides some really great insights into the market.

In 2014, Health IT Priorities are Changing

Posted on January 30, 2014 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Cliff McClintick, chief operating officer of Doc Halo. Cincinnati-based Doc Halo sets the professional standard for health care communication offering secure messaging for physicians, medical practices, hospitals and healthcare organizations. The Doc Halo secure texting solution is designed to streamline HIPAA-compliant physician and medical clinician sharing of critical patient information within a secure environment.

2014 is a major year for health care, and for more reasons than one.

Of course, some of the most significant reforms of the Affordable Care Act take effect this year, affecting the lives of both patients and providers.

But it’s also a year in which health care institutions will come to grips with IT issues they might have been putting off. Now that many organizations have completed the electronic health record implementations that were consuming their attention and resources, they’re ready to tackle other priorities.

Expect to see issues related to communications, security and the flow of patient information play big in coming months. At Doc Halo, we’re already seeing high interest in these areas.

Here are my predictions for the top health IT trends of 2014:

  • Patient portal adoption. Web-based portals let patients access their health data, such as discharge summaries and lab results, and often allow for communication with the care team. Federal requirements around Meaningful Use Stage 2 are behind this trend, but the opportunity to empower patients is the exciting part. The market for portals will likely approach $900 million by 2017, up from $280 million in 2012, research firm Frost & Sullivan has predicted.
  • Secure text messaging. Doctors often tell us that they send patient information to their colleagues by text message. Unfortunately, this type of data transmission is not HIPAA-compliant, and it can bring large fines. Demand for secure texting solutions will be high in 2014 as health care providers seek communication methods that are quick, convenient and HIPAA-compliant. Doc Halo provides encrypted, HIPAA-compliant secure text messaging that works on iPhone, Android and your desktop computer.
  • Telehealth growth. The use of technology to support long-distance care will increasingly help to compensate for physician shortages in rural and remote areas. The world telehealth market, estimated at just more than $14 billion in 2012, is likely to see 18.5 percent annual growth through 2018, according to research and consultancy firm RNCOS. Technological advances, growing prevalence of chronic diseases and the need to control health care costs are the main drivers.
  • A move to the cloud. The need to share large amounts of data quickly across numerous locations will push more organizations to the cloud. Frost & Sullivan listed growth of cloud computing, used as an enabler of enterprise-wide health care informatics, as one of its top predictions for health care in 2014. The trend could result in more efficient operations and lower costs.
  • Data breaches. Health care is the industry most apt to suffer costly and embarrassing data breaches in 2014. The sector is at risk because of its size — and it’s growing even larger with the influx of patients under the Affordable Care Act — and the introduction of new federal data breach and privacy requirements, according to Experian. This is one prediction that we can all hope doesn’t come true.

To succeed in 2014, health care providers and administrators will need to skillfully evaluate changing conditions, spot opportunities and manage risks. Effective health IT frameworks will include secure communication solutions that suit the way physicians and other clinicians interact today.

Doc Halo, a leading secure physician communication application, is a proud sponsor of the Healthcare Scene Blog Network.

Connecting Smart Mobile Devices to the EHR

Posted on January 9, 2014 I Written By

Katherine Rourke is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.

My colleague, John Lynn, posted a hilarious CES marketing video advertising a new product it calls the iOximeter.  The iOximeter, which operates on both the iOS and Android platforms, is an independent device which attaches to smart phones, turning the phone into a pulse oximeter.

I strongly suspect that an i-glucose meter, i-scale and i-blood pressure cuff designed for the mass consumer market are starting to make major headway.

Not to be Scrooge at the Christmas party — I think such devices are a very positive development — but I’m left wondering what the purpose of getting the data onto the phone really is.  After all, unless the data gets to a physician conveniently, and ideally comes to live in their EMR, just how much good does it do?

On the consumer side, it does little but add bells and whistles to products consumers are increasingly used to using anyway, given that the price point for these devices is low enough that they’re sold in consumer pharmacies.

On the provider side meanwhile, you’re left with data that, while it might be arranged in pretty charts, doesn’t integrate itself easily into clinicians’ work flow.  And with EMRs already dumping huge volumes of data into their laps, some physicians are actively resisting integrating such data into the records.

No, the existing arrangement simply doesn’t do anything for clinicians, it seems.  Yes, consumers who are into the whole Quantified Self movement might find collecting such data to be satisfying, but the truth is that at this point many doctors just don’t want a ton of consumer-driven data added to the mix.

To make such phone-based devices useful to clinicians, someone will probably have to create a form of middleware, more or less, which accepts, parses, and organizes the data coming in from mobile health app/device combos like these.  When such a middleware layer goes into wide use, then you’ll see hospitals and doctors actively promote the use of these apps and devices.  Until then, devices like the iOximeter aren’t exactly toys, but they’re not going to change healthcare either.

A CIO Guide to Electronic Mobile Device Policy and Secure Texting

Posted on January 6, 2014 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Cliff McClintick, chief operating officer of Doc Halo. Doc Halo provides secure, HIPAA-compliant secure-texting and messaging solutions to the healthcare industry. He is a former chief information officer of an inpatient hospital and has expertise in HIPAA compliance and security, clinical informatics and Meaningful Use. He has more than 20 years of information technology design, management and implementation experience. He has successfully implemented large systems and applications for companies such as Procter and Gamble, Fidelity, General Motors, Duke Energy, Heinz and IAMS.
Reach Cliff at cmcclintick@dochalo.com.

One of the many responsibilities of a health care chief information officer is making sure that protected health information stays secure.

The task includes setting policies in areas such as access to the EMR, laptop hard drive encryption,  virtual private networks, secure texting and emailing and, of course, mobile electronic devices.

Five years ago, mobile devices hadn’t caught many health care CIOs’ attention. Today, if smartphones and tablets aren’t top of mind, they should be. The Joint Commission, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and state agencies are scrutinizing how mobile fits into organizations’ security and compliance policies.

Be assured that nearly every clinician in your organization uses a smartphone, and in nearly every case the device contains PHI in the form of email or text messages. That’s not entirely a bad thing: The fact is, smartphones make clinicians more productive and lead to better patient care. Healthcare providers depend on texts to discuss admissions, emergencies, transfers, diagnoses and other patient information with colleagues and staff. But unless proper security steps are being taken, the technology poses serious risks to patient privacy.

For creating a policy on mobile electronic devices, CIOs can choose from three broad approaches:

  • Forbid the use of smartphones in the organization for work purposes. This route includes forbidding email use on the devices. Many companies have tried this approach, but in the end, it’s not a realistic way to do business. You may forbid the use of the technology and even have members of your organization sign “contracts” to that effect. But even for the people who do comply out of fear, the organization sends the message that it’s OK to violate policy as long as no one finds out.
  • Allow smartphones in the organization but not for transmitting PHI. This approach acknowledges the benefits of the technology and provides guidelines and provisions around its use. This type of policy is better than the first option, as the CIO is taking responsibility for the use of the devices and providing some direction. In most cases there will be guidelines regarding message life, password format, password timeout, remote erase for email and other specifics. And while the sending of PHI would not be allowed, protocol and etiquette would be in place for when the issue comes up. Ultimately, though, this approach can be hard to enforce, and the possibility remains that PHI will be sent to a vendor or out-of-IT-network affiliate.
  • Create a mobile device strategy. This option embraces the technology and acknowledges that real-time communication is paramount to the success of the organization. In healthcare, real-time communication can mean the difference between life and death. With this approach the technology is fully secured and can be used efficiently and effectively.

Recent studies have shown that more than 90 percent of physicians own a smartphone. Texting PHI is common and helps clinicians to make better decisions more quickly. But allowing PHI to be transmitted without adequate security can compromise patient trust and lead to government penalties.

Fortunately, healthcare organizations can take advantage of mobile technology’s capacity to improve care while still keeping PHI safe. In a recent survey of currently activated customers of Doc Halo, a secure texting solution provider, 70 percent of respondents using real-time secure communication reported better patient care. Seamless communication integration and a state-of-the-art user experience ensure that the percentage will only rise.

Doc Halo, a leading secure physician communication application, is a proud sponsor of the Healthcare Scene Blog Network.

Should Patients Care About Their Doctors’ Text Messages?

Posted on November 25, 2013 I Written By

The following is a guest blog post by Dr. Jose Barreau, CEO of Doc Halo.

For all the money they spend on state-of-the-art EMRs, compliance officers and other measures to ensure they’re protecting their patients’ medical information, many healthcare organizations have a gaping hole in their security.

Physicians and other clinicians are as apt as anyone to send a quick text to a colleague. Maybe an attending physician wants to ask a resident about test results or an office worker needs to pass along a patient’s question.

But standard SMS text messages are not HIPAA compliant. Communicating protected health information in this way could compromise patient privacy and expose your organization to substantial fines.

That’s not to say doctors shouldn’t text. Because of its instantaneous nature, mobile messaging can improve efficiency and quality of care. But healthcare providers should make sure they’re using a secure texting platform.

If you have a non-HIPAA-compliant texting habit, you’re in good company. In research last year, nearly 60 percent of physicians at children’s hospitals said they sent or received text messages for work.

It’s easy to view text messages as “off the record.” Chances are they aren’t going into an EMR, and there’s a sense that no one but the sender and recipient will see them.

But when you fire off a text, you don’t know where it will end up. Some of these text messages contain sensitive details of diagnosis and treatment that have been discussed.  Also it’s hard to say whose servers the messages might be stored on, or for how long.  When patients entrust healthcare providers to care for them, they expect their data to be cared for, too.

The Department of Health and Human Services certainly knows about the problem. Last year the agency told an Arizona physicians practice to address the issue in a risk-management plan. The group “must implement security measures sufficient to reduce risks and vulnerabilities to ePHI to a reasonable and appropriate level for ePHI in text messages that are transmitted to or from or stored on a portable device.”

Healthcare providers can text about their patients without violating HIPAA — but only with secure messaging technology. Here are features to look for in a healthcare texting solution:

  • Encryption at all levels — database, transmission and on the app — with federally validated standards
  • Tracking of whether messages have been delivered, with repeated ping of the user
  • A secure private server that is backed up
  • Remote mobile app wipe option if a phone is lost or stolen
  • Automatic logout with inactivity
  • Ability to work on all spectrums of cell data and Wi-Fi for broad coverage
  • Limited data life — for example, 30 days — for messages

Patients benefit when their healthcare providers have quick and secure ways to stay in touch. A secure text messaging platform can help you to provide better care while avoiding HIPAA violations.

Doc Halo, a leading secure physician communication application, is a proud sponsor of the Healthcare Scene Blog Network.