Unsecure Data has no Place in the Health System

By Neil Naik

In our comprehensive health system, patients work with a myriad of health care professionals to meet their specific needs. Physicians, pharmacists, hospitals and personal support workers, to name a few, all contribute to a patient’s holistic care. Communicating with each other can be difficult — especially as many care providers continue to rely on outdated and unsecure methods of communication — mainly, the fax machine.

For several reasons, in my opinion, communicating with other care providers through fax messages is simply no longer an acceptable or reliable method of communication.

First and foremost, the fax machine does not have the same level of security offered through digital services. The lack of end-to-end encryption and secure server protection, not to mention paper faxes left out in the open, can compromise private health information.  In addition, a simple mistake and stroke of the keys could mean a patient’s medical information is sent to the wrong recipient. As a practicing physician, I have seen this first-hand and firmly believe that adopting digital tools and services will protect sensitive health data from potential exposure, and ultimately offer better patient care.

In my practice, I’ve introduced PrescribeIT™ — an e-prescription service built by Canada Health Infoway, a not-for-profit organization. It eliminates the need for paper prescriptions and fax machines, and delivers secure two-way communication between prescriber and pharmacist. The benefits of incorporating this system into my practice have been immeasurable.

PrescribeIT™ addresses security issues and gives me confidence in how, where and when private patient information is shared. I also communicate with pharmacists faster and more efficiently to address urgent patient needs.

For instance, I can now check a patient’s record and view when a prescription is filled. Recently, I noticed a patient with chronic medical issues was refilling her opioid pain medication more frequently than usual. While this could have indicated fraud or misuse of an opioid prescription, further communication with the pharmacist via PrescribeIT™ identified that the patient was experiencing a pain crisis. Thanks to this system, we could better serve our patient in a safer method.

Beyond this example, I have experienced cost benefits as it relates to time saved for the administrative staff in my clinic. No longer does my front-end team need to lose time by reprocessing failed faxes, re-scanning messages from pharmacies across the community or by playing voicemail “phone tag.”

As a result of increased security, efficiency and direct communication with pharmacists in my community, we are working together in a more unified and collaborative way. Now, by incorporating PrescribeIT™ into my practice, I can focus on what matters most: giving the best care and service to my patients.

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About the author
Neil Naik

Neil Naik

Dr. Neil Naik studied medicine at the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, where he graduated with honours. He now practices family medicine in Waterloo, Ontario where he teaches family medicine and office management to medical students as an Assistant Clinical Professor (Adjunct) at McMaster University. He is a Physician Advisor with the eHealth Centre for Excellence, Communitech, and Waterloo Medtech. As President of the Kitchener-Waterloo Academy of Medicine, Neil is working on enhancing communication between physicians, socially and professionally.