By Dr. Lawrence Kaelin
Even as many states begin to reopen some forms of commerce, the ongoing COVID-19 crisis continues to require many physician office employees to work from home. Coupled with the potential for a second wave of infections later this year, the pandemic makes secure communication and access to medical records more critical than ever to treat patients.
The coronavirus crisis upended health care, requiring innovative solutions on all fronts – from doctors dealing with severely ill patients in hospitals, to labs providing test results, to independent physicians trying to serve their patients remotely.
In Italy, physicians even issued a plea to the rest of the world to treat more patients at home in order to avoid the mistakes their country realized too late. They called on Western health care systems to decentralize.
Working from home can be done, but the key is providing the right, and secure, technology setup. Amid the current health crisis, there has never been more incentive for the entire health care system – which relies too frequently on antiquated fax machines – to take the next step forward.
That step means turning to electronic health information exchange systems that allow providers to access and share patient medical information online. Doctors and staff working remotely can view electronic health care records and send and receive information securely.
Cloud-based systems can be the bridge that helps health care providers transition their communications in the fastest, simplest way. With these systems, providers and their staff can do everything they did at the office, but from home.
This technology allows patient records from any source to be uploaded and aggregated into a secure, patient-specific portal, where medical teams and patients can access them in real time – across geographies and different types of electronic health record (EHR) systems.
Like people speaking various languages, different systems are not able to communicate with one another. An exchange system acts like a bridge or interpreter among data sources, which is now even more important with so many health care professionals working from home.
Secure lines between a home office and the doctor’s office can be set up within 30 minutes, with all communications HIPAA-compliant. No new fax lines are needed because the system digitizes faxes that come into the physician’s office and fully integrates them into the platform.
This allows doctors to receive and access information more quickly and efficiently, saving time and money. Patient referrals can be received and sent remotely, and providers can search and track records.
All of this can be done from a virtual office with a computer, without the need to pay all the costs associated with a bricks-and-mortar office.
Working remotely allows offices to maintain more flexible hours for both employees and patients. This also helps prevent the spread of COVID-19, keeping patients and staff safe while still maintaining high levels of medical care.
Doctors, hospitals, and labs owe it to their patients to be able to communicate life-saving information with each other and with staff at home through a quick, comprehensive, and secure platform.
We need to help doctors and nurses on the front lines get the information they need now to stop the spread of this virus and save lives. As the COVID-19 pandemic enters the next phase, there has never been a greater need for easy, seamless communications in health care.Dr. Kaelin is the Chief Medical Officer/Founder of HIE Networks, a leading provider of health information exchange services. HIE Networks offers secure, standards-based exchanges that deliver an easier way to communicate information and share HIPAA-compliant medical correspondence between or among health care providers.