Controlling the spread of pathogens starts with data. In healthcare facilities, interoperability enhances how providers and insurance companies use that data to improve patient care. During the coronavirus pandemic, properly implemented interoperability within facilities and throughout the industry can help patients get better care, identify hot spots of contagion, and mitigate the spread of the virus.
Accessibility to patient information is critical for physicians providing care for coronavirus patients. However, public health officials also depend on data, including the number of diagnosed patients and their demographics. Interoperability helps both groups do their jobs more efficiently, faster, and with as much information as possible.
Due to the sudden eruption of severe symptoms in some people who contract COVID-19, patients may stay at home until needing emergency care. Often, these patients don't have time to phone their primary healthcare provider (PHP) to have records sent to an admitting hospital. For severe cases of COVID-19 that require hospitalization, the patients may not have the ability to share more than their basic information.
Connectivity between care providers is essential in these cases to ensure that the patient gets all the care they need based on their current health and prior medical conditions.
Unfortunately, many facilities must resort to a manual search of patient files and faxing the collected data over phone lines. These tasks take time away from processing data for other patients. Reducing the time on these tasks through the use of EHR systems that have API for cloud fax integrated turns these manual labors into simple, fast jobs done with a few mouse clicks. However, faster care for patients located in a facility is not the only reason for a rise in the need for interoperability to improve services.
During the pandemic, many facilities have shifted their general appointments to telemedicine. This stance will likely increase the demand and use of this service in the future. According to IBM's chief health officer and a vice president Kyu Rhee, telehealth has links to lower death rates at health institutions, adding incentive to pursue the expansion of this technology. However, to ensure the successful execution of telemedicine by giving remote providers access to patient health records, interoperability and instant exchange of patient information are vital.
Public health officials also need access to information about COVID-19 cases. Interoperability makes exchanging information among hospitals, private labs, and public health agencies possible. In fact, in May 2020, the Margolis Center for Health Policy at Duke University outlined three recommendations for using interoperability to reduce the spread of COVID-19:
One of the major problems with achieving interoperability is the lack of willingness to move toward digital methods of communication between offices. Since not all insurance companies and medical facilities use the same software and email attachments lack the security to meet HIPAA requirements, communications still often involve the fax machine.
In fact, up to three-fourths of communications between medical providers and other entities occurs over fax.
Old fax machines that rely on landlines have problems with security, reliability, and scalability. All-in-one units that offer printing, scanning, and faxing capabilities store large quantities of unsecured data and have just as much risk from hackers as other internet connected devices. Landline fax machines may jam or require resending the information, wasting precious staff time and resources.
Integrating cloud fax with API allows digital transmission of documents to other providers or insurance companies, even if they’re using different software. All the recipient must have to receive transmissions from a cloud fax service is a fax number. The number may refer to another cloud fax program that receives faxes or it may go to a traditional fax machine. Cloud faxing overcomes the need for compatibility when sending documents to other medical providers.
Cloud fax integrated into EHR software makes filing forms with insurance easier and faster. Additionally, with multi-layer encryption, administrative tools to control access, and HIPAA compliance, cloud fax solutions are a more secure alternative to traditional paper-based machines.
Regulatory agencies have offered a reprieve to healthcare facilities still struggling to meet the standards for connectivity set out on March 9, 2020. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the Office for the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC), and the Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) established flexibility guidelines in April 2020 to permit discretion in enforcing interoperability requirements. Though this discretionary period has the intention of letting facilities focus on providing care for COVID-19 patients and others, it does not mean that interoperability is not important. In fact, the sooner facilities reach full interoperability the better their services will be.
When beginning the process toward interoperability, always focus on the goal of interconnectivity without compromising the security of patient data. All privacy laws at state and federal levels, such as those under HIPAA, continue to remain crucial to how facilities handle patient information. Look for gaps in communications and connectivity and find solutions to bridge those. The most common options are API-based to allow for simple integration into existing EHR software.
Planning for future compliance with regulations requiring interoperability means keeping a steady focus on the current technology and how to build a bridge to future goals. Secure cloud fax services with a robust API can help you complete your journey toward full interoperability.
One of the simplest changes healthcare facilities can make toward the goal of interoperability is to switch to cloud fax from landline-based technology. With API-driven cloud fax services, like mFax, the integration of faxing from directly within your existing software becomes possible, thereby speeding the process of sending records between providers.
With higher patient volumes, staff members need all the resources available to continue to communicate with insurance companies and other medical providers while handling patient intake and more. By being able to send and receive faxes securely from their EHR program, they can save time and serve more patients.
Find out more about the highly reliable and secure, HIPAA-compliant cloud fax solution from mFax and make your first step toward total interoperability today.