Alternative FAX: Your health data is sensitive. Ditch the FAX. Embrace DSM.

By Joe Wivoda
Healthcare Solutions Practice Director

I spoke recently at the annual National Cooperative of Health Networks (NCHN) conference in beautiful Bozeman, Montana. The topic was electronic sharing of information between behavioral health providers and networks. I hoped people would share my interest in this topic. And they did. Attendance was great – and I’m pretty sure they weren’t there just to hear my terrible jokes.


There’s never been a better time to embrace electronic information exchange.


Sharing information electronically can improve the quality of care – and save lives. Everyone in healthcare understands the value of working together better and faster. We all get that. We’re all committed to improving quality of care. In fact, it’s our commitment – that deep sense of ownership – that makes us uncomfortable trusting a new system to securely and appropriately share patient information electronically. But today we can.


The technology is proven and affordable. Providers can electronically exchange useful information today in a way that is secure, legally compliant, and uses technology that is available at little or no cost. For example, Direct Secure Messaging (DSM or Direct) uses familiar protocols and tools (think email) that can send clinical packets of information or simple PDFs to any provider. Securely.


Regulations are better aligning with new healthcare models. For example, in February 2017, HHS updated and modernized 42 CFR Part 2 for the first time in more than 29 years. This is the law that regulates Confidentiality of Alcohol and Drug Abuse Patient Records. In the words of HHS, this update was designed to “facilitate information exchange within the new healthcare models while addressing the legitimate privacy concerns of patients seeking treatment for a substance use disorder.??? Certainly, this and other federal and state regulations remain strict and complex – particularly those with a focus on behavioral health. And rightfully so. But with an increased association to new healthcare models, these regulations are becoming easier to navigate in a more direct way.


Four things you can do right now to get started.


Start small. It’s not all or nothing. Take an incremental approach. Focus first on where your fax machine is. And do lots of testing.


Research HIE. Talk with your vendor about HIE (the verb). Start with DSM, even if it’s just with PDFs or images. Interface to an HIE (the noun).


Get connected. Become part of a network.


Stay current on privacy and security requirements. And make sure your vendors are clear on these requirements as well.


And by the way…


It was an honor to exhibit and speak at the NCHN Conference in Bozeman, Montana this spring. The NCHN Association’s single mission is to support and strengthen health networks. What’s better than that?


I thoroughly enjoyed catching up with healthcare leaders from across the country. When we weren’t discussing the future of healthcare, we were talking about the weather. (Which reminded me of spring at home in northern Minnesota…warm, cold, snow, rain, rinse, repeat). And of course, we talked about fishing. Which reminded me of you. Give me a call when you’re ready to ditch that FAX machine…I could really use a new boat anchor.