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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 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.

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.

Secure Text Messaging is Univerally Needed in Healthcare

Posted on April 15, 2014 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.

I’ve written regularly about the need for secure text messaging in healthcare. I can’t believe that it was two years ago that I wrote that Texting is Not HIPAA Secure. Traditional SMS texting on your cell phone is not HIPAA secure, but there are a whole lot of alternatives. In fact, in January I made the case for why even without HIPAA Secure Text Messaging was a much better alternative to SMS.

Those that know me (or read my byline at the end of each article) know that I’m totally bias on this front since I’m an adviser to secure text message company, docBeat. With that disclaimer, I encourage all of you to take a frank and objective look at the potential for HIPAA violations and the potential benefits of secure text over SMS and decide for yourself if there is value in these secure messaging services. This amazing potential is why I chose to support docBeat in the first place.

While I’ve found the secure messaging space really interesting, what I didn’t realize when I started helping docBeat was how many parts of the healthcare system could benefit from something as simple as a secure text message. When we first started talking about the secure text, we were completely focused on providers texting in ambulatory practices and hospitals. We quickly realized the value of secure texting with other members of the clinic or hospital organization like nurses, front desk staff, HIM, etc.

What’s been interesting in the evolution of docBeat was how many other parts of the healthcare system could benefit from a simple secure text message solution. Some of these areas include things like: long term care facilities, skilled nursing facilities, Quick Care, EDs, Radiology, Labs, rehabilitation centers, surgery centers, and more. This shouldn’t have been a surprise since the need to communicate healthcare information that includes PHI is universal and a simple text message is often the best way to do it.

The natural next extension for secure messaging is to connect it to patients. The beautiful part of secure text messaging apps like docBeat is that patients aren’t intimidated by a the messages they receive from docBeat. The same can’t be said for most patient portals which require all sorts of registration, logins, forms, etc. Every patient I know is happy to read a secure text message. I don’t know many that want to login to a portal.

Over the past couple years the secure text messaging tide has absolutely shifted and there’s now a land grab for organizations looking to implement some form of secure text messaging. In some ways it reminds me of the way organizations were adopting EHR software a few years back. However, we won’t need $36 billion to incentivize the adoption of secure text message. Instead, market pressures will make it happen naturally. Plus, with ICD-10 delayed another year, hopefully organizations will have time to focus on small but valuable projects like secure text messaging.

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.

The Guide to HIPAA Compliant Text Messaging

Posted on January 23, 2014 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.

I’ve written regularly about the need to move to HIPAA compliant text messaging, because Texting (SMS) is NOT HIPAA Secure. To add to that, I recently wrote a post on EMR and EHR about Why Secure Text Messaging is Better than SMS. I throw out the whole “fear of HIPAA” component and paint a picture for why every organization should be moving to a secure text message solution instead of using SMS.

While I think a business case can be made for secure text messaging in healthcare over SMS without using HIPAA, the HIPAA implications are important as well. In fact, imprivata has put out The CIO’s Guide to HIPAA Compliant Text Messaging where they make a good case for why HIPAA compliant text messaging is important and how to get there.

The whitepaper suggests that you have to start with Policy, then choose a Product, and then put it into Practice. Sounds like pretty much every health IT project, no? However, the guide also offers a series of really great checklists that can help you make sure you’re covering all of your bases when it comes to implementing a secure text message strategy.

Of course, the biggest challenge to all of this is that everyone is so busy with MU stage 2 and ICD-10. However, when the HIPAA auditors come knocking, I wouldn’t want to be an organization without a secure text message solution. The best way to battle non-HIPAA compliant SMS messaging in your organization is to provide them an alternative.

Full Disclosure: I’m an adviser to HIPAA compliant messaging company docBeat.

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.

Email vs Text for Healthcare Communication

Posted on April 8, 2013 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.

The idea of improving communication in healthcare is always a hot one. For fear of HIPAA and other factors, healthcare seems to lag behind when adopting the latest communication technologies. The most simple examples are email and text message. Both are simple and widely adopted communication technologies and most in healthcare are afraid to use them.

At the core of why people are afraid is because native email is not HIPAA secure and native SMS is not HIPAA secure either. Although, there are a whole suite of communication products that are working to solve the healthcare communication security challenges while still keeping the simplicity of an email or text message. In fact, both of the other companies I’ve started or advise, Physia and docBeat, are focused on the problems of secure email and secure text. Plus, there are dozens of other companies working to improve healthcare communication and hundreds of EMR, PHR, and HIE applications that are integrating these forms of communication into their systems.

As we enter this brave new world of healthcare communication, it’s worth considering some of the intricacies of email vs text. The following tweet is a good place to start.

This is really interesting to note and I can confirm those are the general statistics for most email campaigns out there today. I’m not sure of the number of texts that are open, but it’s clear that the number of text messages that are opened is very high.

The reason this is the case is because of the expectation of what’s inside a text message vs an email. When you receive a text, you can be sure that it won’t take up more than a moment of your time. You can consume it quickly and move on with your life. The same is usually not the case with email (especially email lists). Most of the emails that are sent are lengthy because they can be. We try and pack every option imaginable into an email and so people have an expectation that if they start with the email they’re going to need time. I know this is the case because my email subscribers often thank me for my emails because they know they can get something of value quickly.

I think it was Dan Munro that pointed out an exception to the email open rate. His idea was that if the email contains an action item, then open rates are much higher. This was a good insight. There’s little doubt that if an email contains something that you have to do, then more people will open it and do the action. I don’t get a bill in my email and then don’t open it. I have to open it so I can pay the bill. I’m sure this principle can be applied in a number of ways to healthcare.

As we finally bring these common communication technologies to healthcare we need to be thoughtful about which ones we use and when we use them.

Texting is Not HIPAA Secure

Posted on April 17, 2012 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.

I previously posted the somewhat controversial post: Email is Not HIPAA Secure. It was an extremely important post and included 54 incredible comments discussing email security and email in how it relates to HIPAA. Today I want to discuss the security issues related to text (SMS) messages.

The short story is: Texting (SMS) is NOT HIPAA Secure

I recently did a focus group to discuss physician communication. At one point I asked how many of them use text messages to communicate with other doctors. All of them acknowledged that they used it and that they were using it more and more. I then asked how many sent PHI (protected health information) in the text messages that they sent. While the response wasn’t as strong likely because they knew it was a loaded question, they all acknowledged that PHI was sent by text message all of the time.

One doctor even commented, “They’re not going to put us all in jail.”

There is some validity to this comment. They’re not going to go around like an old school lynch mob putting physicians in jail because they sent some patient information in a text message. Although, that doesn’t mean that they couldn’t go around handing out hefty fines for HIPAA violations.

Let me be clear that there are secure text message platforms out there. I’ve actually been thinking about this quite a bit lately since I’ve been advising a local Vegas Tech iPhone app called docBeat that offers this secure text message functionality for free. In fact, there are quite a few companies that are trying to provide this functionality. Although, I like docBeat because it offers a whole suite of Physician Communication Tools and not just secure text messaging. I think there’s value in a doctor only to have to go to one place for all their communication needs. In a future post, I’ll do a full write up on what docBeat’s offering physicians.

At some point, I think doctors are going to turn the corner and realize that the standard SMS text messaging service that every cell phone has these days is not the right way to communicate. Besides the fact that standard text messaging isn’t secured, it’s also stored forever on the server of your cell phone service provider. Most doctors likely haven’t thought that everything they’ve sent over text could be brought back to haunt them forever.

Other problems with standard text messaging is that you don’t really know what happens with the text message once its sent. Did the text message actually send? Did the person you sent the text message actually receive it? If they received the text message have they read it?

The great thing is that we all finally have realized the value of simple communication with a text message. Now we just need to move to these new secure text messaging platforms that solve the security, reliability and tracking issues with standard text messaging.