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Could a Facebook-Style App Help Doctors Help Patients?

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One U.S. medical center recently estimated it received about 50,000 faxes a month for consults and referrals, and sent about 10,000 faxes in the same period.

While this may seem absurd to any non-medical professional in an age of email, smartphones, networked tablets, and social media, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) has prevented doctors from exchanging information without “reasonable safeguards” (including via email and Facebook) since 1996.

Getting around the red tape

For doctors looking to share life-improving patient information with other medical professionals, a HIPAA-compliant, physician-only network launched a year ago by Doximity (created by a group of former Epocrates execs) called iRounds has convinced approximately 7% of all the doctors in America to create and use roughly 35,000 secure accounts to quickly share patient information

After a detailed verification process (which includes a credit check and a comparison of supplied credentials to the American Medical Association’s database) a multi-step sign-in similar to what your bank uses online lets physicians securely and legally exchange patient records, test results, and other data with specialists. In doing so, such physicians could be paving the way for a new standard, where a more efficient consultation process could make a huge difference for time-critical analysis.

Rapid results

For example, Webster, TX-based surgeon Rafael Lugo used iRounds to post photos of a rare tumor as it progressed and was able to receive timely feedback from several specialists. As a result, he was able to get his patient referred for treatment rapidly and effectively.

“Medicine is very much a team sport and patients benefit significantly more from the skill and experience of 30,000 doctors, as opposed to just one,” he said of the experience.

Other programs

Such digital media solutions to beat the fax machine roadblock aren’t alone:

In 2007, a collaboration with Pfizer launched the physician-based Sermo social networking site, which allows doctors to consult and exchange insights online or, now, via an iPhone app.

Like iRounds, Sermo verifies doctors’ credentials. Peer reviews and user-reviewed rating systems help ensure that medical reporting within the system – which claims a membership of 120,000 doctors – is accurate and trustworthy.

In Canada, where legislation makes sharing medical information between doctors similarly dicey, the Canadian Medical Association recently tested a service called Asklepios (in honor of the Greek god of healing) that would allow doctors to have group discussions and live chats about care of specific patients.


Should Doctors Use Facebook with Patients?

Hidden dangers of social networks for doctors

Review of Doximity

More on iRounds

What do you think?

Would you use a digital media solution for consults and referrals if you could be sure it was HIPAA-compliant?

Are you already on such a system? (If so, do you have any stories to tell on how well it’s working out for you?)

Leave a comment and continue the discussion below…

Contributor Tera Rowland

Tera Rowland is the vice president of Soliant and has worked in the healthcare staffing industry for almost 20 years in public relations, social media, marketing and operations. In addition to Soliant, Tera worked at the Mayo Clinic as an internal communication manager and for the Children’s Miracle Network. She is a member of the American Marketing Association and the American Staffing Association. Also, Tera has served on the board of directors for the Jacksonville Women’s Leadership Forum as part of the communication committee. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Public Relations as well as a Master of Business Administration in Marketing from the University of North Florida and has been published in the Huffington Post, Healthcare Finance News, Healthcare Traveler Magazine, and Scrubs Magazine. Make sure to read the rest of Tera's blogs!