Secure Healthcare Faxing and Information Exchange: Is Your Fax Machine Sabotaging Your HIPAA Compliance?

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Secure Healthcare Faxing and Information Exchange:
Is Your Fax Machine Sabotaging Your HIPAA Compliance?

Posted on Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Providers strive to protect patient privacy with secure healthcare faxing and information exchange.  In today’s age of constant technological updates, it is astonishing that an invention from the 1800s is used in attempts to achieve this goal.

Although the fax machine was invented way back in 1843, it is still a standard tool used by many in healthcare today.  According to a national survey of physicians, 63% say they use fax machines as their primary way to communicate with other physicians.

While many would like this unreliable technology retired for good, for now it seems the fax machine may continue to be a necessary evil in the industry; therefore, it’s important for healthcare facilities to consider its effect on patient privacy and HIPAA compliance, as well as solutions for ensuring secure healthcare faxing and information exchange.

 

Security & HIPAA Compliance Issues

Here are just a few ways your fax machines may be putting your facility’s security at risk:

Wrong numbers– Fax machines are not immune to human error. All it takes is for an employee to press one incorrect button, and a patient’s identity and private health information are exposed to a random recipient whose trustworthiness is unknown.  Even if you provide a cover sheet that explains the fax is classified and for a specific recipient, you have no control over the actions of the person on the other end.

Lost or incomplete documentsWith numerous, multi-page documents coming in at the same time, pages can get mixed up and sorted into the wrong pile. Someone without the proper authorization can unintentionally gain access to confidential material, jeopardizing patient privacy.

Physical location Where do you keep your fax machines? Have you placed them in busy areas where everyone can easily access them, like many organizations have?  While this may be convenient, anyone could walk by and read, or even steal, sensitive documents.  A fax can also be received outside of regular office hours, when there are even fewer workers around to notice potential theft.

Physical disposal– Are you certain your staff members dispose of every single sensitive paper document in the proper shred box, and that they are never placed in a regular garbage can? (And how much money are you spending on a HIPAA-compliant document shredding company?)  Additionally, thermal fax machines contain a carbon copy of every fax they’ve ever sent or received.  If this type of machine is not properly discarded, it can end up unsecured in a landfill or sold to anyone who could effortlessly retrieve all the information that ever passed through the device.

Inadequate audit trails– Fax machines can confirm that a document was received by another fax machine, but cannot guarantee that the intended person at that organization picked up the document or that no one else read it. They also don’t keep track of which individual sent each fax.

Do you have tools in place that enable secure healthcare faxing and information exchange?

Do you have tools in place that enable secure healthcare faxing and information exchange?

 

The Solution for Secure Healthcare Faxing and Information Exchange 

Fortunately, it is possible to utilize fax communication while also protecting patient privacy and avoiding a HIPAA violation that must be reported, requires you to implement a costly corrective action plan, and could lead to being placed on the CMS compliance watchlist.  Here is how an electronic document management solution can save your facility from the concerns listed above when it comes to secure healthcare faxing and information exchange:

Restricted transmission– Correspondence is limited to only those recipients on your pre-programmed, approved list of destinations; wrong number entries simply don’t happen.

Electronic access– There is no need to worry about physical paperwork disappearing; physician orders and other forms are electronically routed to appropriate departments using paperless workflow for all data. Different authorized departments or users can access the same documents simultaneously, so printing hardcopies is unnecessary.

Encrypted storage– Documents can be indexed for permanent, encrypted storage and future retrieval using the search function; lost orders are eliminated.

Audit trails– HIPAA-compliant audit trails are assigned to each document.

IT systems integration– An electronic document management solution like ActiveXCHANGE can be seamlessly integrated with most existing hospital information systems and technologies, including RightFax.

 

HIPAA compliance requires healthcare facilities to apply “reasonable safeguards” when communicating about patients’ medical information.  For referencing something as sensitive as patient privacy, this is a pretty subjective term.

Why not eliminate the ambiguity surrounding HIPAA compliance with an electronic document management solution that protects your facility from the above risks and ensures secure healthcare faxing and information exchange?


By Stephanie Salmich

 

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3 Strategies to Help Healthcare Facilities Reduce or Repurpose FTEs

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HealthWare Systems Blog

3 Strategies to Help Healthcare Facilities Reduce or Repurpose FTEs

Posted on Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Attempting to reduce or repurpose FTEs can be a challenge.  As an article posted by the American Academy of Family Physicians points out, determining the most cost-effective number of FTEs a facility needs while still maintaining the highest level of productivity can be tricky.  The article suggests “comparing practices to industry benchmarks and making adjustments to the numbers, as needed” according to your facility’s unique situation.

Many healthcare facilities may be overstaffed in the name of productivity.  Fortunately, you don’t have to sacrifice productivity in order to reduce or repurpose FTEs.  Here are three strategies to help you reduce or repurpose FTEs while improving efficiency, patient satisfaction scores, and your revenue cycle.

 

Improve Healthcare Employee Retention

If your practice or hospital has more FTEs than average for similar facilities, perhaps it is the result of high turnover.  Newer employees typically take longer to complete the same tasks as veteran staff.  If you can retain experienced, efficient employees, you may not need as many overall.

 

Evaluate Employee Performance

Utilize technology that can monitor employee performance for you, and find out where staff efficiency may be improved.  For example, technology that produces registrar report cards can help you compare the accuracy and efficiency of individual registrars and determine whether your excess number of FTEs is due to inadequate employee performance.

 

Workflow Automation

Reevaluate your facility’s workflows to determine where you might cut manual labor costs through workflow automation.  Workflow automation can lessen internal workloads and enable you to reduce or repurpose FTEs.

Workflow automation can help healthcare facilities reduce or repurpose FTEs, improve healthcare employee retention, and improve patient satisfaction scores.

Workflow automation can help healthcare facilities reduce or repurpose FTEs, improve healthcare employee retention, and improve patient satisfaction scores.

Furthermore, workflow automation helps improve healthcare employee retention and can have a direct impact on patient satisfaction scores.  Healthcare employees are passionate about making a difference in the lives of patients.  Workflow automation allows staff to spend less time on tasks like calling insurance companies for eligibility/authorizations and calling patients with appointment reminders, and more time focused on patient care.

This reduces employee burnout and leaves employees feeling more fulfilled (and patients feeling more satisfied!), resulting in better healthcare employee retention and increased patient satisfaction scores.

Check out the following case studies to see how real hospitals were able to repurpose FTEs and improve patient satisfaction because of workflow automation:

And read here how Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital grew its surgery department by 20% without an increase in FTEs, thanks to workflow automation.


By Stephanie Salmich

Interoperability in Healthcare and Its Effect on Patient Safety and Public Health

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HealthWare Systems Blog

Interoperability in Healthcare and Its Effect on Patient Safety and Public Health

Posted on Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Interoperability in healthcare is becoming increasingly important to the patient experience, public health, and patient safety.  Patients should be able to trust that when they see multiple providers at various doctors’ offices, hospitals, pharmacies, labs and imaging facilities, and other locations, their health information is protected, accessible, and actionable.

Yet, research posted by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) found that only 26% of hospitals successfully conduct all 4 core domains (electronically sending, receiving, finding, and integrating/using key clinical information) of interoperability in healthcare.

Improving this percentage is absolutely vital to patient safety and public health.  Consider how these two categories of patient safety are affected by inadequate levels of interoperability in healthcare:

 

Individual Patient Safety

According to the ONC’s study, only 46% of hospitals had required patient information from outside providers or sources available electronically at the point of care and only 18% reported that their providers “often” used electronically received patient health information from outside sources when treating their patients.

Tragically, treating a patient without all necessary medical information can result in adverse drug events due to inaccurate medication reconciliation, preventable pain and suffering, life-threatening medical errors, and even death.

Improving interoperability in healthcare can help prevent adverse drug events that affect public health and patient safety.

Improving interoperability in healthcare can help prevent adverse drug events that affect public health and patient safety.

At the very least, delays in access to relevant health data mean delays in treatment and extra discomfort, pain, or worry for patients and their family members as they wait.

 

Public Health & Safety

Public health reporting is critical for preventing/containing outbreaks of disease, preparing for public health emergencies, investigating population health trends, educating communities, promoting healthy lifestyles, and informing and monitoring health policies.  Public health reporting, to local, state, and federal organizations like the CDC, is also hindered by poor interoperability in healthcare.

The ONC explains in an Issue Brief that for public health reporting:

“The goal is to move to seamless, real-time or near-real-time bidirectional exchange of data . . . This allows for the most complete and up-to-date record possible.” (p. 4)

The accuracy of public health reporting, and the strength of the health policies created from it, can only be as sound as a system’s interoperability capabilities will allow.

Fortunately, there is technology that can greatly improve individual patient safety and public health by creating true interoperability in healthcare and seamlessly integrating with healthcare IT systems.

This is an ethical issue – if we want to protect the public and patient safety, we must make interoperability in healthcare a top priority.


By Stephanie Salmich

Improve Hospital Navigation and the Patient Experience with a Wayfinding Solution

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Improve Hospital Navigation and the Patient Experience with a Wayfinding Solution

Posted on Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Navigating their way through a large hospital building full of many different hallways and departments can add an extra layer of anxiety to an already stressful experience for patients, their families and friends.  Adding a wayfinding solution dramatically improves hospital navigation and the patient experience.

 

Here are three different technological wayfinding solutions hospitals are adding to their facilities:

 

1. Mobile Apps

Hospitals have been developing their own apps to help patients navigate through their facility. By adding this type of technology-driven wayfinding solution, visitors are easily guided to their destination and this adds to a more enjoyable hospital visit. After all, cell phones and mobile technology are constantly around us (most of the time in our hands); why not use a smartphone app to help patients direct their way through the facility? Some mobile apps even include interior maps with turn-by-turn directions to any destination on campus!

 

2. Touchscreen Kiosks

Some hospitals have created a wayfinding solution through touchscreen kiosks installed in their lobbies for patients to check-in. These “greeter stations” provide the ability to not only check-in without the assistance of a greeter, but the patient can also scan any needed documentation (e.g. driver’s license, insurance card). Any captured documents are delivered to the registrar electronically.

 

Touchscreen kiosks are a great wayfinding solution.

Touchscreen kiosks are a great wayfinding solution.

Touchscreen kiosks can print physical wayfinding maps as well as registration packets for the visitor to review while he/she waits. This helps expedite the final registration step and provides patients with something to do while they are waiting, enhancing the patient experience.

 

3. Digital Signage

Having digital signs throughout a hospital is very helpful for wandering visitors. With maps and announcements being displayed, guests won’t get lost while visiting loved ones and hospital staff won’t miss important messages.

 

One specific type of digital signage used in some hospitals is a patient notification board. A patient notification board informs patients when to proceed to a registration booth. It provides an audible tone and/or message when a registrar is available and ready to serve them. Between these notifications, the patient notification board can be set up to display marketing and informational messages to patients while they are waiting (e.g. wellness programs, hospital services).

 

True, these current wayfinding solutions for hospital navigation cater to a younger, more tech-savvy hospital visitor, but keeping up with the current trends and technology takes a facility to the next level.  Implementing a wayfinding solution from the list above can leave an extremely impressive and lasting impression on the patient experience.


By Samantha Willis