The Problem: Modern Medicine Needs A Modern Communication Method

Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Solution: A HIPAA-Compliant, Free, Secure Way to Exchange PHI Over the Internet

It seems that every day, we read about medical innovations—robotic surgery with smaller incisions and quicker recovery times, safer and more powerful diagnostic imaging, and game-changing medical therapies.

Yet despite this being the era of high-tech medicine, federal rules such as HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) that require the secure communication of private health information (PHI) have left many doctors in the technological dark ages when it comes to modern means of sharing critical information about patients.

Faxes and snail mail… oh my

While fax machines are mostly collecting dust in today’s business world due to the efficiency and immediacy of email and Web-based communication, many physicians still regularly share PHI with each other via fax due to concerns about security and privacy. Even patients who want copies of their own medical records or test results often have to drive to their doctor’s office or hospital to pick them up… or worse yet, wait to receive them via snail mail.
Unfortunately, many of the doctors seeking to be compliant with the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules—and related requirements under the Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH Act)—have felt they had no choice other than using these outdated means of sharing health information, due to concerns about secure email communication of PHI. They now also have to comply with the Omnibus Rule under the HITECH Act, which further strengthened the privacy and security protections for health information.

Doctors have not continued to use fax machines and in-person delivery methods of PHI because they want to—they have done so because even with modern communication methods, there historically has been no secure method of sending PHI electronically. Even so-called “secure” email using a SSL (https) connection is not HIPAA compliant. A temptation may exist for doctors to send messages and images containing PHI via text message on their mobile devices because of the convenience, but just like email communication, this is neither secure nor compliant. 

Meanwhile, physicians across the country, faced with the contradiction of having to use outdated technology to communicate modern health information, have been saying to themselves: “There has to be a better way.”

And now, there finally is.

Innovation by necessity: Free, secure communication

Innovation is born from necessity. Fueled by a desire to address a critical yet unmet need, the team at MedTunnel—whose founders include physicians and programmers—developed the country’s first and only FREE, fast, and secure healthcare communication system for physicians/providers and patients.

MedTunnel allows providers and patients (provider to provider, patient to provider, or provider to patient) to communicate and exchange PHI between their computers and mobile devices—including iPhones, iPads, and Android devices. Different platforms, all with the same MedTunnel security.

MedTunnel’s development team knew that busy doctors needed the electronic communication of medical documents to be not only secure, but fast and user-friendly. That’s why they designed this HIPAA-compliant system to send PHI to anyone as easily as sending an email or a text message—anywhere, anytime. Once users sign in with their MedTunnel ID on their computer or in the mobile app, they can easily drag and drop files to send documents. There is even a virtual printer that can accept documents from any printing application for sending via MedTunnel.  It’s also simple to view, download, or print messages and documents sent via MedTunnel.

Doctors can sign up as individual providers or provider groups. Any kind of healthcare entity can register for MedTunnel. This includes doctors’ offices, imaging centers, hospitals, clinics, physical therapy centers, insurance companies, surgery centers, labs, transcription services, or any other organization that needs to send private health information.

Turn-key integration, enhanced information-sharing

MedTunnel is compatible with doctors’ existing electronic medical record (EMR) or electronic health record (EHR) systems, for seamless integration. And, doctors who use different EMR/EHR systems can still easily share information. Messages and healthcare documents can even be sent to non-MedTunnel users since the documents are encrypted to ensure they are secure and HIPAA-compliant.

MedTunnel’s Invite function gives users the ability to notify recipients about their preference to use MedTunnel instead of fax (or in-person pick-ups or mail) to send and receive messages and documents.
Web-based patient portals are not a substitute for MedTunnel. For starters, they are not used when sending medical documents between providers. Therefore, many practices with these types of portals still use the fax when sending or receiving medical documents from other providers outside their network.

Another advantage when using MedTunnel when sending patient documents to other providers is that the patient's MedTunnel ID can be used as a unique identifier to make identifying patients easier. In addition, with MedTunnel, the provider has complete control over which information the patient receives.

Serious about security

When it comes to compliance, security matters—and thankfully, MedTunnel’s team is fanatical about it.

In order to maintain the high level of end-to-end security required to ensure PHI remains secure, no one at MedTunnel—literally no one—has access to PHI communicated by users. What this means is that the only people with direct access to PHI on the MedTunnel servers are the users who sent or received that information.

MedTunnel acts as a secure conduit to transport PHI and not as a permanent repository for documents, which adds another level of security. Messages, which can include text, documents, or images, are stored for 14 days from the time they are sent, after which time they are automatically erased. The MedTunnel mobile app caches data from messages and attachments locally on the user’s mobile device and they are saved there until the user deletes them.

Goodbye fax, hello high-tech

We’re not sure why no one thought of it until now, but MedTunnel is the only secure healthcare communication solution on the market that is HIPAA-compliant and simple-to-use—for free. There’s no “catch” to the “for free” part, either—MedTunnel is available for anyone to use to send private health information. Also, there is no limit to how many documents or messages you can send.

With MedTunnel, providers are no longer limited to using fax or paper mail in order to securely send and receive PHI. Patients benefit too, since they no longer have to drive to their providers’ office to obtain their medical records. It is all done electronically over the Internet with the press of a few buttons—no paper, no fuss.

Reducing or eliminating the use of a fax machine can result in a major cost savings, with fewer expenses related to fax lines, equipment, shredding, paper, and toner. Also, providers will realize a cost benefit from increased worker productivity by eliminating the need for manually filing paper faxes, finding a specific fax, scanning faxes, etc. On the environmental side, MedTunnel eliminates the use of paper and toner and eliminates the need for patients to drive to the doctor’s office to pick up records.

Given all of the benefits of MedTunnel, it’s clear that the time is now to “Say Goodbye to Faxing… and Hello to Free Secure Communication for Healthcare.”

It’s just human nature that you would want to share your awesome discovery of MedTunnel with the world—or at least the social media world. Before you take the time to tweet or post on Facebook, you just may want to check out Pinterest for some creative uses for your old paper fax machine (sculpture or collage, anyone?).

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