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HIT Projects You Can Implement Today

Posted on November 30, 2009 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 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.

Many people are sitting their on the proverbial fence waiting to see what’s going to happen with the HITECH act and meaningful use before they actually go and implement an EMR. Now, I’m not going to let those people off the hook from evaluating and selecting an EMR. That should be done anyway. However, lately I’ve been thinking that many of these clinics shouldn’t be waiting to implement technology in their offices. Sure, EMR is a game changer and a major change for any office and has tremendous upside (regardless of stimulus money). However, for those of you in the wait for HITECH act money camp, there are still a number of IT projects that you can implement today that will benefit you once you actually implement an EMR. Here’s just a few of them:

Fax Server – This is a HUGE game changer for those that have an EMR. The medical world still revolves around the fax machine and will for a long time to come. Implementing a fax server in your office is a great first step to prepare your office for an EMR. Plus, it can save a lot of paper. For example, you can just delete all those “spam” faxes that you get. Fax servers are great and by having it installed and your users trained on how to use it so that when you implement your EMR you can just directly upload your faxes into your EMR without ever printing out the fax.

IM (Instant Messaging) – I’m amazed at how useful our clinic has found IM to be in our office. It’s a great way for the nurses to communicate with the clinicians, the clinical people with the front desk and the nurses with each other. You do have to manage when to IM versus a phone call versus an email (or secure EMR message once you have an EMR), but there’s sometimes that an IM is a perfect way to communicate in a clinic.

Shared Drives – Setting up a shared drive for your office is simple to do and can save a lot of time. I’m surprised how many offices don’t use this. It’s not the best thing for patient data, but there are hundreds of other office uses for a shared drive to prove beneficial. Ideally this would be setup on active directory, but even if you just manually map a shared drive it can work well in a clinic.

IT Infrastructure – Good IT companies will come and do an analysis of your current IT setup for free. They’ll also give you an idea of what things you could do now that will prepare you for your EMR implementation. Plus, even if you don’t do some of the things until you get closer to implementing an EMR, it’s good to know the weaknesses in your IT infrastructure early so that you can make that part of your plans.

Those are just a few examples. I’m sure some will also mention ePrescribing on this list. I’m not totally sold on that idea, but would love to hear people who disagree. What other technologies can clinics implement now regardless of their EMR purchase?

Hosted Fax Applications vs Fax Servers in a Healthcare Environment

Posted on February 5, 2008 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 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.

Today I got an email asking about whether someone should use a hosted HIPAA compliant fax application or get their own fax server. Here’s the full email (with names removed):

I’m setting up a web based application for administrative work at doctors offices. I want to be able to allow these offices to purchase an electronic fax service that is HIPAA compliant and integrated with my application from me. I have tried to research this and have only gotten more confused. What should I do?

* Should I use one of these internet fax providers through a partnership program where I can brand the product to my own? Are they HIPAA compliant? and how come some of them like smartfax.com charges only $12.95 for unlimited faxing, and someone like sfaxme.com who claims to be HIPAA compliant charges $99.00 for 1000 pages.
* Or should I use some sort of fax server.

Any help would be highly appreciated.

Best Regards,
Name Removed

Some very good questions. I will admit that I’m definitely not an expert on the hosted HIPAA compliant fax server market. I’d love for people to correct anything I’ve said which is wrong. Here’s what I wrote in response to the email:

I can understand your confusion. There are a lot of different options out there. I personally don’t know much about the fax service providers. I knew there were some out there, but I’ve never personally used one myself. I’m not sure I ever would use one at least for HIPAA related information. You’re probably ok if you have a business associates agreement, but here again I’m not a lawyer and laws may depend on which state you’re in.

As far as the pricing difference, I’m sure there are a number of factors, but it makes a lot of sense that a HIPAA compliant fax service would be more expensive than a non-HIPAA compliant service. Not necessarily because the technology is all that different, but because they “should” implement more safeguards to protect your data in order to be HIPAA compliant. Not to mention if a company can claim HIPAA compliant faxes, then they’ll probably charge more just because they can.

I personally prefer the fax server route. They are inexpensive (like $50 or less) and everything is stored in house. If you have a Windows Server 2003 server in your office, then the fax application to keep logs of all your faxes is also free. If you don’t have a server like that, then it will be a little more difficult but a good fax program only costs around $50-100 last I checked.

One thing you should know about a fax server (and probably the fax providers) is that you’ll need to have some sort of scanner to be able to scan things in order to fax them. Unless of course you’re planning to only fax things that are already electronic. Basically a fax server can fax anything you can print. If you can print it, you can fax it with a fax server.

Anything else that I left out about fax servers vs. hosted fax applications that people in healthcare should know?

Description of a Fax Server in a Doctor’s Office

Posted on January 1, 2008 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 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.

Today I got an email from a doctor asking the following question “How do I implement a fax server in my office? I have a server and 7 workstations. I have a fax line and a fax machine.” After typing a long reply I decided that information about setting up a fax server in a Doctor’s Office might be useful to all EMR and HIPAA readers. The following is my email reply:

I think you might be misunderstanding a fax server a little. A fax server is a special type of fax machine that usually is hooked up to your server. Most regular fax machines can’t be used as a fax server. You can read more about fax servers on wikipedia.

There are a number of different ways to set it up, but most people connect the fax line to the fax server, and the fax server to the server. Then, ideally you use active directory to share the fax server with in your case the 7 workstations in your office. You can also do this manually if you don’t use active directory in your office.

In order to get the faxes off of the fax server, I personally set up a folder on the server where all the faxes arrive. I then shared the folder on the server with all the workstations I want to access the received faxes. Here again I did this with active directory, but you can also do it manually too.

It’s also important to select the fax software you want to use with your Fax Server. Windows 2003 Server comes with good enough software for most people or you can find a ton of different fax softwares out there that are in the $50-100 range. I personally just use the Windows 2003 fax server software. It keeps a log of all incoming faxes and even all of the faxes sent. With Windows 2003 Small Business Server, it’s really easy to setup the fax server software. I imagine it’s not that difficult with any Windows 2003 server, but it might take a little looking to find where to configure it.

I also have seen that not all fax servers are the same. I wish that I was more of an expert, but I’ve just taken the hit or miss approach. One that I purchased was a little troublesome and the other one has worked really smoothly. I found a list of compatible fax devices on the Microsoft website at one point, but for some reason I didn’t follow it. It might have been because of price or it was outdated. I don’t remember exactly why.

I also recommend keeping your regular fax machine around. Ideally you’d have it set up on a separate phone line so that you have a back up fax machine if your fax server fails, has problems or something else crazy. Always nice to have a little redundancy for the inevitable problems with technology.

Best of luck getting it set up. It really is a HUGE benefit to a doctor’s office. Once it’s set up, then all you’ll ever need to really do is learn to clear out faxes that failed to be sent (ie. fax number is incorrect) and to restart the fax server occasionally.

Let me know if you have any questions.