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Dropbox Supports Healthcare Data Exchange and Collaboration

Dropbox continues to emerge as a valuable health data exchange tool for healthcare organizations, according to the latest Gartner report.

Dropbox assists with health data exchange.

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- The adoption of Dropbox as a healthcare data exchange tool for content sharing and collaboration is on the rise in healthcare.

Dropbox is a cloud-based, file-hosting service that makes a user’s files available on all devices by adding them to the user’s personal user space. Dropbox also allows users to share files with others by inviting them to view any folder, or by sharing links to specific files or folders.

Dropbox began as a consumer product for personal use, but it has been making moves to become an enterprise tool for the past several years.

Dropbox was recently named a leader in Gartner’s 2017 Magic Quadrant for Content Collaboration Platforms for enterprise file sharing.

The Gartner report predicted that by 2020, 80 percent of enterprises across all major verticals – including healthcare – will have deployed one or more content collaboration platforms.

The healthcare industry in particular can’t use just any content collaboration platform because of HIPAA compliance and PHI regulations. Historically, this notion turned healthcare organizations away from a traditionally consumer facing product like Dropbox.

However, back in November of 2015, Dropbox revealed its efforts to meet the health data security and privacy measures under HIPAA and HITECH, transforming the solution from a consumer-facing application to an option enterprises could seriously consider for their users’ file sharing needs.

“Dropbox provides the industrial strength security, control, and compliance standards that IT departments demand, helping us drive momentum in regulated industries like healthcare. These companies are increasingly turning to Dropbox to modernize their workflows,” said Dropbox Global VP Of Revenue Thomas Hansen.

The Gartner Magic Quadrant also highlighted Dropbox’s emergence and significance in the healthcare space. A healthcare vice president stated that Dropbox was significant in managing cloud-based workflow.

“Dropbox has streamlined communication with new and updated documents,” the healthcare vice president said in a statement. “Dropbox allows access to all employees by computer or mobile device. It has made sure that all employees have the correct and most up to date information.”

Healthcare organizations are beginning to embrace Dropbox because of its ability to transfer large files and its easy accessibility from all devices clinicians may encounter throughout the day. Dropbox is able to handle the large volume of Image and research files.

The Gladstone Institute is one of several high-profile healthcare organizations currently using Dropbox as part of its health IT infrastructure to share research data.

Gladstone faced basic technological hurdles, which made it difficult for chemists, biologists, engineers, and statisticians to collaborate with one another.

“Collaboration is the only way we can make major scientific breakthroughs,” Gladstone President R. Sanders Williams, MD said.

The organization deals with massive images, 3D models, and videos as vital parts of researchers’ work to analyze cell and tissue types. Dropbox has allowed researchers to share these massive files with collaborators around the world.

Dropbox also assists Gladstone in writing and submitting research grants because the necessary files can be quickly shared and accessed across many different lab locations.

“Scientific grants may be written by five or six people across different labs,” Gladstone VP of Communications Megan McDevitt said in a statement. “It’s a lot easier to iterate on these documents through Dropbox than exchanging versions over email.”

Many researchers were more inclined to embrace Dropbox because of its simplicity and Dropbox’s success with consumers.

“They were already familiar with Dropbox, so the business product made sense for our organization. We want to provide tools that facilitate collaboration among our scientists,” Gladstone CIO Scott Pegg, PhD said in a statement.

Dropbox is a useful tool for healthcare organizations. However IT administrators still need to be aware of shadow IT. Clinicians and researchers cannot use the consumer version of Dropbox for clinical data because it does not abide by HITECH and HIPAA regulations like the business version does.

Dropbox currently makes business associate agreements (BAAs) available for healthcare organizations and other organizations working with and sharing files containing PHI within the healthcare industry.

Dropbox also offers services to assist healthcare organizations integrating Dropbox into their compliance and health IT infrastructures, ensuring the solution is available across the network.

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