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EHR Adoption Still an Issue in Healthcare

Alex Jablokow| March 09 2017

| security

Electronic Health Record (EHR) adoption in healthcare has been rocky and uneven. Many physicians and practices still find EHRs inadequate or poorly designed.No wonder secure transfer of EHR records is also still a problem. Healthcare practices risk penalties, exposure of private health information (PHI), and missing data. From an IT perspective, their reluctance to move to a more secure solution is sometimes hard to understand.

Any new practice, requirement, or system has to fit in to an already stressed and time-short situation. Acknowledging the challenges of incorporating something like managed file transfer (MFT) into healthcare is essential for effective adoption.

Appreciate Workflow Requirements

Healthcare professionals have all sorts of routines, arrangements, practices, and habits that let them offload mental processing so that they can focus on patient care.

Anyone seeking to implement an upgraded file transfer protocol, essential to security, compliance, and the reliable transfer of information from one facility to another, has to strive to ensure that it fits into existing workflow. These files are the informational basis of how a healthcare organization improves the quality of the care it offers and improves its processes, and controls costs.

Healthcare data mandates, including HIPAA, the Final Omnibus Rule, and HITECH, met healthcare organizations that depended on a variety of homegrown or extensively modified and customized IT infrastructures. Many investments are made in those legacy systems and the habits around their use, and facilities are more likely to budget for clinical equipment than IT infrastructure upgrades.

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Know the Limits of Standardization

Just as it is easy to underestimate the importance of shared habits and workflow, it’s easy to overestimate the degree of standardization in healthcare.

Many hospitals have to work with a myriad other providers, including independent physician practices, imaging facilities, rehab facilities, labs, and skilled nursing facilities (SNF), as well as insurers, durable medical equipment vendors…the list goes on. Each has its own idiosyncrasies and requirements.

This helps explain healthcare’s dependence on a technology most of us have forgotten: the fax machine.

A high percentage of medical offices still use fax machines for file transfers. Various documents require signatures, physicians still write notes by hand, and many older medical records have not been digitized.

Everyone knows how to use a fax, and if managed properly, they are HIPAA compliant. Are faxes a good solution? Not at all. Everyone hates them and the paper they generate. But no one needs to think about them or worry about how they work. The sender can be sure that the recipient can receive a fax, understand it, and use it.

Understanding why faxes are still relied on by people who hate them will go a long way to helping craft the proper replacement for them.

Doctors Think EHR Adoption Makes Life Harder

What seems like the ideal solution from an IT perspective seldom is from a ward floor or physician office perspective. Any EHR file transfer solution has to be easy to use, fit as naturally into workflow as telephones, faxes, and paper mail (yes, physician offices still use paper mail too), and provide reception acknowledgement immediately clear to busy office staff.

In other words, the secure and compliant way also needs to be the natural, easy way. Physicians and their office staffs have real business needs, which from their point of view often seem to take second place to bureaucratic or regulatory requirements. To be clear, they certainly know how important privacy and security are. However, those solutions feel imposed on them, not designed for them.

The ease of the solution has to be as true for small resource-strapped offices, overworked SNFs, busy labs, and underfunded behavior health facilities as it is of large metropolitan hospital networks.

A managed file transfer solution is budget-friendly and easy to fit into existing workflow while enabling simple and secure connections to a wide range of counterparties.

Topics: security

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Alex Jablokow is a freelance writer who specializes in technical and healthcare business. He blogs about the Internet of Things, software, inertial guidance systems, and other topics for business clients. Sturdy Words, his freelance content business, is at www.sturdywords.com.

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