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Secure Communication Requires Functionality and Smooth Integration

Healthcare providers seek secure communication solutions that are HIPAA-compliant as well as functional.

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- Healthcare organizations are introducing increasing numbers of network connections into their health IT ecosystems. As a result, secure communication becomes a high priority for health IT departments.

Each organization has unique needs and most vendors vary on how they handle secure communication, making selecting the right vendor an involved process, according to a recent KLAS report.

“Whether replacing an existing solution or making a net-new purchase, acute care organizations are largely moving toward broad communication platforms that streamline communication organization-wide,” said KLAS report authors. “In contrast, ambulatory organizations are focused primarily on HIPAA-compliant messaging.”

The high demand for secure communication in healthcare stems from the increased use of digital tools to share PHI. Many vendors approached this problem differently resulting in several different secure communication strategies from different vendors. Some vendors were able to make their secure communication platform HIPAA-compliant while others built their secure healthcare communication solutions from the ground up to be used in a medical setting.

“Today, many acute care organizations are expanding their visions to include interfaces and functionality that improve communication for multiple workflows, thereby improving patient care,” said the report. “Regardless of where they started, all vendors in the acute care space are attempting to meet customers’ needs with functionality in the critical areas of EMR interfacing, clinician scheduling, and middleware interfacing, as well as their less urgent needs for notification routing and corporate-owned shared devices.”

The report found that functionality is one of the most highly sought-after features of secure messaging platforms. Functionality includes the solutions ability to integrate with existing infrastructure tools.

“Product functionality and a pre-existing relationship (through either other technology or an existing secure communication contract) are the top reasons that organizations consider and choose specific vendors in their secure communication decisions. Integration—a key component sought by acute care organizations—is the next most common factor,” said the report. “Focused primarily on secure messaging, the large number of ambulatory organizations making decisions are influenced heavily by price and vendor reputation.”

A Harris Poll and PerfectServe survey conducted last year highlighted the communication issues facing healthcare organizations. The survey outlined fragmented technologies, unclear workflows, and HIPAA as some of the challenges inter-organization communications need to facilitate.

More than ninety percent of respondents believed that interoperable, secure, and mobile communications are vital to building a high-quality population health program.

Organizations without a clear and direct mode of communication can run into problems when it comes to exchanging patient data. Most clinicians also found that lack of organized communication can lead to low-priority calls disrupting patient care.

More than half of the respondents reported that they did not feel EHRs were an efficient way to communicate with physicians, prompting many organizations to seek alternative methods and separate communication from EHRs.

Healthcare providers generally believe that better communication and the availability of patient data at the right time and place will solve efficiency issues and improve population health management.

The inefficiency of EHRs drove the adoption of mobile device communication and unified mobile communication programs and applications. The survey also found that many organizations were embracing mobile communication but were not using HIPAA compliant means. Respondents said they were receiving unsecure voicemails and messages containing protected health information (PHI).

Bringing clinician communications to mobile devices calls for a communication system that works smoothly on a mobile OS as well as a desktop environment.

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