So You Want to Email Your Doctor?
Well, if you’re in Canada, chances are high that emailing your physician is not an option. As Healthy Debate points out in a recent article, many healthcare clinics and physicians are still relying on phone and fax to communicate (or as we’ve experienced, frequently require an in-person follow-up appointment before providing any information). The problem, according to the Healthy Debate article, is that regulations around email communications are conflicting and email security solutions are expensive and hard to use.
As a Canadian who’s writing this post, I call this a cop out. Restricting the use of email in healthcare is not effective or acceptable. Fortunately, the ways in which patients and doctors can safely and effectively communicate sensitive information is a discussion that is happening all over the world, so there is hope.
The fact remains, for business, email is the most convenient way to share information. When something as ubiquitous as email is restricted as a form of communication everyone suffers. It is counterproductive for caregivers and negatively impacts the patient’s ability to access health services. The situation is even more frustrating given the availability of email encryption and security tools for healthcare that are affordable, easy to use and that ensure data does not leave the jurisdiction.
So if these tools are so accessible why are they not being used more frequently? While there’s no one simple answer to this question aside from change is never easy, in many cases traditional encryption and security solutions have created added complexity and hindered communications. Even when these tools are implemented, they may be limited to certain users or they may not work on mobile devices like smartphones and tablets. Sometimes it is a case of employees finding ways to avoid using them because they don’t make their jobs any easier.
One thing is certain: email communication is not disappearing anytime soon and it’s time for those who are lagging behind to get on board. IT services and solution providers are equally accountable. Creating an open dialogue is key. As are listening, understanding the pain points and proposing solutions that address these issues.
Proven security tools for healthcare that keep users in their regular email environment and work on any device are out there. Cirius is one of them. (If you want to get a sense of what a day in the life of a Cirius healthcare user is like, have a look at a previous blog post, which illustrates how a dental clinic can communicate securely.)
In an information-driven world, there is no question that establishing safe and secure electronic communications between patients and healthcare professionals offers enormous benefits. It’s a win-win for everyone. And, if we look at countries like Switzerland as an example, it’s really only a matter of time before emailing your doctor for your test results will be as normal as filing your taxes online.