Understandably, due to the complex nature of the healthcare system there are many reasons surrounding the challenges of physician-physician and physician-patient communications in dermatology. However, as practices rely on fax machines or have been slow to upgrade their EMR software to a streamlined service, many are resorting to communicating with their colleagues or patients via email or text.2,3 However, there are many challenges that arise from this method.
Patient Data Security & Privacy
When physicians were asked how useful they found their smartphones in supporting their workflows, over 92% stated useful or very useful.4 Unfortunately, this doesn’t always prove to be the case, especially on the receiving end for patients. Text messages, emails and calls lead to huge breaches in privacy and violate HIPAA and GDPR-compliance. Furthermore, if confidential information is sent to the wrong number or accessed by the wrong patient then that individual could miss out on receiving potentially life-saving information.
Quality of Information
In addition to breaching patient confidentiality, SMS texting greatly diminishes the quality of information provided to the patient. For example, unless the patient has access to data or WiFi, they will not be able to access any attached images, which can be extremely important to dermoscopy-related cases such as skin cancer. Similarly, studies demonstrate that patient charts cannot be found during as much as 30% of in-clinic visits.5 If physicians are relying on texts to record and communicate results with patients, this information is separated from the main file and is more likely to fail to be properly documented for future visits.
Streamlining Dermatology Communications
Since research shows that 77% of US citizens have own a smartphone (with 17% having at least one health-related app) it makes sense that medical professionals want to utilize this valuable tool to remain in contact with their patients.6 However, lacking security and documentation processes disallow this from ever being an adoptable approach.
Instead, intelligent dermatology software such as DermEngine are building off of this concept to provide streamlined communication options which integrate text and email features within the platform. Rather than sending results directly through these methods (where they pose security risks), this cloud-based EMR software allows medical professionals to image, document, diagnose and contact patients to notify them that their results are ready for review. As a result, all information remains securely stored within the HIPAA-compliant software in a centralized EMR solution, accessible location while allowing medical professionals to reach out to patients in a method that they are most confident the patient will receive.
Building on this concept, patients have the option of securely logging into their account on the associated patient portal to directly view their results rather than having to schedule an in-clinic visit. This in turn saves the patient and medical professional valuable time while ensuring that information is sent and received in a well-documented, organized manner.
Although smartphones have proved to be a popular workaround to the patient-doctor communication challenges faced by the dermatology industry, it is not a permanent solution due to the risks of data privacy, and quality of information. Intelligent dermatology software such as DermEngine are offering centralized solutions with enhanced communication features that tailor to smartphone users for a streamlined experience while being compliant with the strictest regulatory needs. As EMR adoption rates continue to rise across North America, it is clear that visionary software will not pioneer new communication methods, but rather build off what is needed by its users.