By Katie Wike, contributing writer
At Rockdale Medical Center, clinical mobile apps are accelerating the transmission of data among departments, meeting HIPAA requirements and pleasing physicians.
In 2012, Epocrates Research group found 34 percent of physicians used a tablet computer and 75 percent planned to buy one within a year. Eighty-one percent of those who owned a tablet owned an iPad. Tablets continue to gain popularity due to their unmatched mobility and ease of use. Despite the trend, connecting these mobile devices to existing EHR platforms in a way that meets HIPAA security requirements may prove to be a tricky task.
For Rockdale Medical Center (RMC) in Rockdale County, GA, the answer was a clinical mobile app already approved by the FDA as a diagnostic aid. Since 1954 RMC has made its mission to provide the best care possible for all the patients in the 138-bed acute care facility. The need for a means of transmitting patient data from the emergency department to the lab and at night with a smaller staff available spurred RMC’s search for a HIPAA-compliant datasharing technology.
A Struggle To Meet HIPAA Compliance
The need for a HIPAA-compliant means of transmitting EKGs digitally between departments prompted RMC to evaluate the use of electronic devices in the facility. Dr. Lisa Gillespie, chief medical officer at Rockdale Medical Center, explains, “Our physicians wanted to see the EKG via text as the image was clearer and faster than receiving a fax. Also, our OB physicians had to rely on nursing interpretations of OB strips.” Faxing EKG images around the hospital was inefficient and created security risks and, as Gillespie adds, “gave our HIPAA officer and risk manager heartburn.”
Because the process of faxing images opened the door for privacy violations, RMC developed a process to reduce security risks by having a dedicated phone to transmit these text images and not allowing personal phones to be involved. However, this system still could not guarantee 100 percent compliance.
Searching For Secure Communication
As part of a new business plan, RMC staff were required to update — and in some cases replace — computer monitors throughout the facility to allow for seamless transmission and interface of data. “This project was identified as a physicianstrategic initiative, and we knew that we needed to have the appropriate controls for transmitting any patient data to a physician’s handheld equipment,” explains Gillespie. Management felt that lack of security in mobile devices was an industry-wide problem. Many physicians ask clinicians to take pictures of results (EKGs, for example) and send them via text message directly to the physician’s phone. This creates a major problem because there is no control over the transmitted data and personal information. RMC has since put policies in place that emphasize all texted photographs are not compliant and that clinicians must use HIPAA-secure mobile apps — namely the recently installed AirStrip ONE.
AirStrip ONE is an FDA-cleared mobility framework designed to provide physicians with insight into real-time patient health (e.g. EKG data, OB data, heart/pulse monitor data, etc.) data securely via mobile devices. Mobile access to this critical health data enables physicians to take immediate, appropriate action in response to patient conditions at any time, from any location.
The AirStrip ONE platform integrates with a hospital’s existing technology infrastructure — including medical devices, EMRs, and PACS systems — to provide physicians with a complete picture of patient health regardless of the vendor technology in use. RMC, for example, uses the GE Muse Cardiology Information System (CIS) to record EKG images. The hospital also leverages a GE Centricity EMR to capture perinatal strips for OB physicians. AirStrip ONE integrates with both of these systems to deliver EKG and perinatal images and information directly to the mobile phones and tablet devices in use by physicians. Data security concerns were also eased with this choice, since AirStrip is fully HIPAA-compliant. In addition, AirStrip automatically erases patient test images when physicians log out of the application.
Smooth Implementation, Faster Data To Physicians
Integration of the AirStrip application caused no problems for the staff at RMC. In fact, Gillespie said it was one of the easier technology implementation rollouts that RMC has encountered. AirStrip was integrated with both GE Muse and GE Centricity. One of the reasons for this smooth transition was that this integration was a part of the project scope from the beginning, and AirStrip was a partner with GE technology.
As a result of the initial technology evaluation, RMC staff discovered AirStrip ONE was a product that had a broader capability to include the transmission of data. One type of data easily transmitted was OB Strips, which would be a tremendous asset for OB physicians. Gillespie says the installation led to decreased turnaround time for getting critical clinical information to the physician, from the ER to clinicians, and from department to department. RMC has also seen a high percentage of physician usage and satisfaction since going live with the application.