Suppose that a patient is seeking a second opinion from a specialist in Texas for their recent cancer diagnosis. The patient resides on the East Coast of the United States and is unable or uncomfortable traveling. To properly confirm and address the diagnosis, the physician in Texas needs to see the patient's full medical history, including pathology. Unfortunately, sending the pathology report through the mail is costly and wastes valuable time, and also runs the risk of getting lost or damaged in transit. Not to mention, digital pathology slides are so large they will not fit on a DVD for sending.
The alternative — a much better solution, and one that's growing in popularity — is being able to upload a pathology report directly to the cloud through a medical record uploader. This enables patients to electronically send all of their medical history to physicians in distant locations who are then immediately able to review and diagnose conditions from wherever they are without requiring the patient to travel.
Particularly with oncology, delays can mean the difference between life and death. Second opinions can refine, alter, or confirm a treatment plan which can ultimately save the life of the patient. Consolidating and sharing medical records digitally for complex cases such as ones in oncology can save valuable time and can help the patient make informed decisions about their care with such a time-sensitive diagnosis.
Yet medical file sharing over the internet presents its own set of problems and technical challenges. How can patients upload multiple, massive medical files of all formats, without having access to specialized equipment? Will a simple browser really suffice as the tool to accomplish this?
Current File Sharing Options for Patients
Today, another alternative to mailing CDs or physical reports is to download an application onto your local machine that will help you send a study to your desired physician. But this idea creates a few problems of its own.
With viruses, phishing and security issues so commonplace for health care facilities, the idea of downloading something from the internet is almost anathema in the medical field. Hospital IT policies often prohibit downloads from the internet as they are dubbed as being potentially risky, especially if they are executable files (.exe) used for running applications.
The only other viable option is to perform the image sharing within a browser, also known as a "thin client." Most of us can run browsers on our machines, even with tight security protocols in place. However, every browser is a bit different. Some will not recognize CD drives in your computer. Some may not let you drag and drop directories. This increases the complexity for what should be a simple task and leaves many web-based medical image uploaders failing more than 50 percent of the time when patients try to upload images.
To avoid these issues, some people just use a file-sharing application like Dropbox or Google Drive to copy and share the files. But file sharing can be insecure and in some cases a de facto violation of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).
A Better Method of Sharing Has Arrived
If only there was a way to insulate the user from all of these choices and enable uploading of medical image files from the CDs the doctor gave them. One that would not run afoul of IT security concerns, or HIPAA, and that would "just work" - this task would be much simpler.
Well, now there finally is an alternative that works with any browser, is secure, easy to use and foolproof — an alternative that addresses all of the objections raised above. Purview has developed a web-based, fully functional uploading system that enables patients to securely send complex medical cases to the cloud right from within their browser.
With this solution, you remain in compliance with HIPAA, and you can use it without having to download additional plugins or extensions, potentially risking the security of your system. This approach is reliable more than 90 percent of the time, which is a massive improvement over traditional browser-based systems that tend to work at best about half the time.
Speed Matters, But So Does the Right Solution
In the medical field today, speed is essential. Physicians and patients alike need the ability to collect medical records digitally and deliver it to its destination as quickly as possible. However, you must make sure that whatever solution you choose to facilitate electronic sharing of medical records is able to do so without putting you at risk of compliance issues or compromising the security of your network. No amount of convenience is worth that level of cost.
With the drawbacks associated with having patients send you CDs or physical medical records via file sharing applications or email - invest in your practice by considering an option that integrates directly within your website and enables immediate, secure sharing of DICOM image files from patients. Time to diagnosis will decrease, saving valuable time time for both you and your patients.
Need a more robust solution for your institution to collect, manage, store and review complex medical cases? Explore our Purview Expert View Solution.
A version of this post was originally published on February 10, 2017