Photo credit: Depositphotos
By Paul Banco
With more than nine million COVID-19 cases in the United States, hospitals have been overwhelmed with the increase in protected health information (PHI) being exchanged, accessed, and analyzed. Busy signals and slow transmissions associated with limited PSTN-based fax numbers and legacy systems have underscored the lack of interoperability within healthcare and prevented patient records, test results, prescriptions, and insurance information from being processed fast and efficiently.
To deliver quality patient care, accelerate communications, and improve business processes amid the pandemic, the demand for telehealth has soared. Virtual appointments via Microsoft Teams and Slack have allowed doctors to safely evaluate patients in the comfort of their own homes while mobile messaging applications have enabled nurses and medical staff to exchange patient information instantly and deliver test results directly to patients.
Through the implementation of digital and direct fax solutions, organizations have also been able to digitize workflows, improve interoperability, and fuel healthcare innovation. Leveraging hybrid-cloud fax technology, healthcare professionals can securely send and receive high-resolution documents and PHI from today’s popular fax servers as well as third-party messaging platforms including Slack, Teams, and mobile applications via iOS and Android devices.
Unlike traditional PTSN-based networks, digital fax technology ensures that time-sensitive documents and medical records are delivered with ultra-fast transmission speeds and guaranteed delivery. With the ability to exchange test results, X-rays, and CT scans with superior color and clarity via applications and mobile devices, digital fax solutions also allow doctors to provide accurate medical diagnoses faster than ever before.
Protecting Patient Data
While telehealth services and mobile apps offer greater flexibility to treat patients safely, they also have the potential to increase security risks when it comes to patient data. Since many communications apps are not HIPAA compliant, the risk of a data breach occurring that compromises personally identifiable information (PII) is imminent. For example, though Apple is a HIPAA business associate, it is not willing to sign a BAA, and therefore, Apple services including FaceTime are not HIPAA compliant.
Though every industry is susceptible to cyberattacks, healthcare has experienced the largest growth in attacks over the years because patient records, insurance information, and social security numbers are more valuable on the dark web. Medical records, for example, can sell for $1,000 each on the dark web – 10 times more than the average credit card data breach record.
To ensure that PHI remains safeguarded, organizations must utilize a secure exchange network that provides HIPAA, SOC 2, and PCI DSS compliance. For guaranteed data protection, digital fax solutions should also leverage defense-in-depth strategies including end-to-end encryption and two-factor authentication. By leveraging the security of fax technology with the scalability of the cloud, healthcare organizations can ensure the health and safety of patients without compromising security or privacy.
Patient Satisfaction and Security
While the pandemic has forced many healthcare organizations to implement telehealth services for the first time, virtual care coordination via third-party apps and mobile devices is here to stay. According to a report from McKinsey, 74 percent of telehealth users reported high satisfaction and indicated they were likely to use telehealth moving forward. A study from Ricoh Research also found that 74% of hospitals that use mobile devices to collect healthcare data are more efficient than those using traditional methods.
Overall, improving patient care and interoperability while protecting PHI starts by extending legacy devices and telehealth services to a secure exchange network via the cloud. Today, digital and direct fax solutions can integrate with messaging platforms and mobile apps to ensure medical records, test results, and clinical documents are delivered with ultra-fast transmission speeds. Hybrid-cloud fax technology can also provide end-to-end encryption, two-factor authentication, and direct transmissions to protect the integrity of PHI and business-critical communications while in transit and at rest.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As CEO and co-founder of etherFAX, Paul Banco is responsible for the strategic direction of the company and leads technology development, including the patented etherFAX and etherFAX SEN intellectual property. In 2009, he identified the need to leverage the cloud for secure document delivery and co-founded etherFAX with fellow telecom industry veterans. As a cloud-based and virtual solution, etherFAX enables healthcare organizations to securely send and receive information from a broad range of applications and endpoint devices.