As the United States begins to emerge from the global COVID-19 pandemic, the healthcare landscape that was already undergoing digital transformation (DX) is significantly moving in acceleration mode. IDC stated that “in response to the global pandemic, healthcare and life science organizations experienced 2 years of DX in 2 months.1” The urgency toward a more connected and digital experience in healthcare has accelerated at a staggering pace. Virtual care or telehealth, touchless registration, AI and cloud technologies have all taken their rightful place as the current technology leaders, and are transforming the face of healthcare delivery, as well as healthcare IT, in the US and beyond. Recent goals from the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) are also driving the industry with key standards for improved interoperability. With all of the recent advances in healthcare technology and updates on policies, however, there is still much to accomplish.
Because of its highly regulated nature and decades of deeply rooted administrative processes, healthcare continues to be an industry that has difficulty in breaking from its past. Walk into any hospital, physician practice or long-term care facility and you are likely to find a piece of outdated technology hard at work – the fax machine. Fax continues to be the most common form of data interoperability in healthcare. However, the workflow around the fax machine tends to be manual, time-consuming, costly, and the fax output may be of low quality and incomplete. All these factors snowball into additional operational costs and increased staff and patient frustration. Further, there can be increased vulnerabilities and risks from potential data breaches and HIPAA violations, if for example, the document falls into the wrong hands. So how can healthcare providers move toward a more electronic means of sharing protected health information (PHI)?
Exchanging patient information across care settings (from the hospital to a rehab center during a care transition as an example), as well as across disparate IT systems, such as electronic healthcare record (EHR) systems, has been a persistent challenge for healthcare organizations, and stands as the primary reason that the fax machine continues to prevail and interoperability remains elusive. However, as DX has become a must-have, the need for rapid, secure and meaningful data exchange is beginning to accelerate as well. Interoperable exchange was a key objective within the Meaningful Use program, which was part of the 2009 Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act (HITECH) to drive adoption of EHRs. The Meaningful Use program was recently updated and renamed Promoting Interoperability, underscoring the importance of interoperable exchange in healthcare, and a critical component of digital transformation.
Over the past few years, Konica Minolta has introduced customers, particularly those in the extended care setting, such as skilled nursing, rehab, home health and others, to a concept known as Direct Secure Messaging, supported by the DirectTrust™ network, a HIPAA-compliant and healthcare standards-based method of exchanging PHI as an alternative to fax. The extended care market, while quickly adopting healthcare IT, still tends to lag their acute care referral partners in technology use, primarily because they were not included in the Meaningful Use incentive program, thus creating a greater digital divide and complicating interoperability objectives. To address this challenge, Konica Minolta has developed a bundled solution specifically tailored for extended care organizations, which brings together our award-winning multifunction printers (MFPs) with Direct Secure Messaging, advanced MFP security settings and searchable PDF capabilities and professional services. The Healthcare MFP bundled solution is powered by Kno2 Connected™ and offers the capability to send Direct messages right from the MFP, and through a portal, users have the ability to send outbound and receive inbound Direct messages in a structured or semi-structured format that is more easily consumable by EHRs. By using this means of exchange, our customers can more precisely track PHI message transmissions via a dashboard, minimize HIPAA breach exposure and bridge the digital divide by addressing the need for interoperable exchange and longitudinal care. Direct messaging has seen substantial growth over the past 18 months, with over 1 billion messages sent in that time, according to Direct Trust, a national healthcare standards association committed to the development and promotion of interoperable exchange, and an organization that Konica Minolta is proud to be associated with as corporate member and sponsor.2
With all of its shortfalls, fax continues to be the most common form of PHI exchange. And while its elimination and replacement by alternative technologies is an ambitious goal, it’s happening at a gradual and measured pace. Therefore, Konica Minolta offers a seamless transition – HIPAA-compliant cloud fax as part of our Dispatcher Suite of solutions, as well as fax server solutions to minimize reliance on standalone analog fax machines.
Additionally, through All Covered, our IT Services division, the Healthcare IT consulting practice offers interoperability and integration services to assist all sizes and types of healthcare organizations to more effectively close interoperability gaps, whether through connections to health information exchanges, or by developing HL7 (Health Level 7) integrations between disparate healthcare IT systems.
The urgency of the global pandemic shed light on the limits of outdated, legacy technology but also on the importance of digital transformation. The DX journey in healthcare is well underway, and with the added drivers of consumerism and growing competition, Interoperable exchange is a high priority and an essential building block to move key initiatives forward. At Konica Minolta, we work with and support our customers in advancing their initiatives with actionable data, bridging their digital divide and realizing and intelligently acting on their DX objectives for better outcomes and increased value.