File sharing happens frequently throughout the day. Nurses, technicians, physicians, medical records departments, transcriptionists and insurance companies all have their hands in a complex workflow revolving around patient care. The types of shared information include lab reports, radiology images, billing information, prescriptions, and sometimes entire medical records for a release of information request.
While some EMR and EHR systems facilitate or even manage document flow, there are external sites, ambulatory centers, small group practices, and patients themselves who may not have access to these systems. For these groups, an easy and secure way to share this information is critical. With the new HIPAA Omnibus rule extending accountability to business associates, the Security Rule now has more implications for BAs as well.
In terms of efficiency, there are times when shaving off even a few mouse clicks is important. And when a task is performed many times per day – the time savings can add up. Cleary, being able to accomplish the same thing in less time is compelling. Even if you don’t fall into the category of people who could save hundreds or thousands of clicks over the course of a day, I think we all still like to work as efficiently as possible, without having to think too much about overhead as we do our jobs. The old methods of sharing information and files through email, FTP servers, shared network folders, and document management systems are complex, non-compliant, and simply overkill.
Today, file synchronization, popularized by Dropbox, is becoming a prevalent way to increase accessibility to files by pushing them out to all the devices and computers that a user has, including desktops, laptops, smart phones, and tablets. Dropbox is extremely popular among consumers but its history of security hiccups may give IT teams pause, and most enterprises and other businesses are not sanctioning Dropbox in their organizations.
However, enterprise file synchronization and sharing (EFSS) is a growing category of services and applications that provide Dropbox-style functionality, while also addressing the security and manageability needs that go along with handling personal health information (PHI). I believe we’ll see major adoption of these solutions because they not only offer convenience, they will also provide the control over access, authorization, and auditability that IT departments will appreciate.
I see ease-of-use as one of the primary drivers for adopting EFSS solutions. Most EFSS technology simply lets users define a set of folders which are synchronized, on a PC for example. Then, users install a small piece of client software on the different devices they wish to synchronize, and files dropped into a folder are instantly distributed to all of the synced devices. This process is extremely simple, and because the synchronization is automatic, there is no complicated delivery process – sharing is set up initially and then those parameters are used for all future uses. Compared to other collaboration and sharing methods, automatic synchronization will save you many clicks. In a healthcare setting, EFSS solutions are far easier to use and understand – something I’m sure will be well received by overworked staff.
Most EFSS technology also supports some type of collaboration so files can be shared with others as well by simply dropping them into a folder. For example, a hematology lab could drop the results of a patient blood panel into the folder of the primary care physician and share the results immediately. A request for a second opinion could be shared with an external specialist, along with any associated test results, medical records, and scans, and once the opinion is formed, it could be simply saved back into the specialist’s shared folder and automatically returned to the requesting physician. And if the specialist is away from his or her desk or traveling, that information could still be accessed via a synchronized tablet.
Existing collaboration tools may still be needed in some situations, but many people are finding that simple, secure file sharing is sufficient for their collaboration needs. With a few collaboration-specific features, such as permissioning, versioning, and notification, an EFSS technology can help connect multiple parties quickly and easily.