In the Canadian healthcare industry, communication technology has lagged behind due to the belief that security and reliability aren’t achievable through modern efforts. As the inefficiencies of working with out-dated forms of communication pile up, the need for a secure and efficient alternative has risen to the forefront.
The answer comes in the form of secure messaging. Without a doubt, over the next five years secure medical-grade messaging will do more to advance patient health than any single drug or medical device.
The question is not whether you should be using secure messaging in your practice, but which secure messaging platform is the smart choice. Complete privacy protection and regulatory compliance are a given first criteria, and if not proven by a potential vendor, run away.
Here are six critical features to guide your selection of the secure messaging service that will modernize the way your entire clinic operates.
Protecting privacy is not a part time job. You can’t afford for your secure communication platform to take breaks. Look for a service that is established and has gone through usability and functionality refinements in real clinic environments. Something that was just launched this year (or last year), will likely still have bugs that limit the benefit you receive from your investment.
Encryption on your end doesn’t guarantee encryption on the receiving end. This is because most encrypted solutions are one sided. The service you use should control the entire communication path and encrypt information at rest as well as in transit.
Even then, encryption is only one part of patient confidentiality compliance. Other important requirements that are absolutely necessary in order for a secure messaging platform to be compliant with the law include authentication and auditability. This means that the service must log every time PHI is accessed and by whom, so that in the face of an audit, you can present a certified list of all transactions on a patient file.
Regulatory compliance and message security don’t necessitate complexity. Secure messaging services that have market experience understand and support clinical workflows. The service you implement in your clinic can’t bring a long learning curve that interrupts processes. Make sure services you’re seriously considering integrate into existing processes smoothly by trying them before handing over payment.
The interface should be easy to figure out without much coaching. Systems modeled after familiar email applications will have the fastest rates of adoption and minimize the adjustment period as you bring your clinic into the 21st century of communication.
The people you want to use this system with shouldn’t have to pay. You don’t want to add secure messaging service sales to your list of responsibilities. For a secure messaging service to be valuable, you need to be able to invite anyone, regardless of professional designation, patients included, without barriers to usage on either end.
Make sure the service you choose will be inclusive of everyone you need to message within the daily functioning of your practice. Creating efficiency with only a subset of the people you communicate with subtracts value from your investment as you won’t be able to fully realize the clinical and administrative benefits delivered by secure messaging.
Closing the loop will give you full benefit from your secure messaging service. When you can know which recipient read your message when, you have confidence the communication is in the right hands. Even with fax, a successful transmission report doesn’t confirm the message got through. It might have gotten stuck in the efax server, forgotten at the bottom of an ‘in basket’, or shuffled into the recycling bin between pizza flyers and vacation deals.
Gone are the days of no news is good news. Read receipts show you the recipient opened your message so you’re sure it got through.
Clinical communication works best when the whole clinic is involved. It takes a team to manage interactions with patients and other practitioners.
Think about how you use the phone. Patients don’t typically call a specific person in the clinic, they call the main number. Whoever is available or on duty will answer the call and manage or route the call appropriately. If no one is available, the call goes to voicemail and is handled by staff when possible before the message is deleted.
That’s not how email works on its own. The addition of a shared inbox to selected staff accounts provides appropriate visibility into clinic communications. Patients message the clinic rather than one person so that vacation and periodic work schedules don’t delay response. It also eliminates questions of whether or not a message has been dealt with by clearly displaying who addressed a message when while including the entire thread for reference. The patient experience is seamless as they aren’t necessarily aware their issue is being handled by a team, all they see is incredible responsiveness.
Implementing secure messaging can improve almost every facet of your clinic. Clinics use this advanced technology to save time and increase capacity. By using these features to guide your selection process, you can be confident your clinic will get the most out of your secure messaging platform, creating maximum efficiency and generating measurable value for you and your patients.