Study Examines Healthcare Providers’ Use of Encrypted E-mail

April 12, 2010

FORT LEE, N.J., April 12 — In a study of healthcare organizations that use encrypted email, providers said they are more likely to use email than either fax or US mail to communicate with patients, peers, businesses associates and insurers.  Providers also said they were more likely to use encrypted email in contacting patients than in contacting medical or business colleagues, while they were least likely to use encrypted email in communicating with insurers.   While some providers said they realized substantial savings by using email in place of paper-based communications, most said they did not yet use electronic mail as a means to reduce costs.

The data is based on a customer study conducted in February by MaxMD (www.max.md), a provider of secure online communications services to the healthcare industry.  The study surveyed more than 225 organizations; the typical respondent was a healthcare provider in a medical office employing fewer than 35 people.

“The trend is encouraging with respect to the use of encrypted communications among providers,” said Scott Finlay, CEO of MaxMD. “But even among the many who could be described as early adopters, they are just beginning to realize that secure email is a fixed-cost, less expensive alternative to conventional forms of communication.

“One key area where secure communication is still underutilized is in providing pre-visit or post-visit instructions to patients,” said Finlay.  “Most of the respondents in our study said they never use email for this purpose, while less than ten percent of providers said they did so most of the time.   That seems like a lost opportunity with respect to improving outcomes and strengthening patient relationships.”

Among other noteworthy findings of the study, providers said that when communicating with patients who are outside the medical office, two-thirds of these contacts did not directly involve a doctor, and most contacts were handled by non-medical staff.  Half said they were interested in having encrypted email capability integrated with health records software (MaxMD already supplies this technology to eCast and other software firms, according to Finlay).   

Most respondents also expressed uncertainty about what constitutes secure communications.  For example, most did not know that faxing is an unsecured form of electronic communication.

www.max.md

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