The pMD Blog

Welcome to the
pMD Blog...

where we cover interesting and relevant news, insights, events, and more related to the health care industry and pMD. Most importantly, this blog is a fun, engaging way to learn about developments in an ever-changing field that is heavily influenced by technology.

POSTS BY TAG | Secure Messaging

Your future in telehealth with pMD revealed

 

As the world around us changes, it’s interesting to think about what actions feel more or less accepted. For example, imagine now walking into a meeting, shaking each person’s hand, then immediately grabbing a pastry with that same hand and then eating it. Right now, that feels shocking, repulsive, and risky. But, back in December of last year, I might have done this without even batting an eyelash. 

It’s exciting to think about what changes are happening right now in health care that was once perceived as outlandish. One of the most obvious examples I’ve experienced is the implementation and adoption of rendering remote health care services - or telehealth. 

Thousands of Patients Use pMD Telehealth Platform for Remote Visits


pMD began building our telehealth capabilities into our Free Secure Messaging, Clinical Communication, and Charge Capture products over a year ago. Since March, with the advent of the global pandemic, pMD has now helped thousands of patients complete remote visits over their mobile devices from the safety of their homes. 

If you haven’t given telehealth a try yet, let me give you an idea of what it’s like to be one of the patients who has used pMD’s telehealth platform

After scheduling your first telehealth appointment with your practice, you receive a text message reminder a few days before your appointment with a link to download pMD’s application. Once downloaded, all you need to do now is wait until your appointment - it’s truly that easy! Your provider initiates the video call, which will ring through to your phone just as any other call would except that the video will be conducted through pMD’s encrypted, HIPAA-compliant app, so your patient information remains completely safe. 

After completing your call with your provider, you’ll be able to securely send photos of incisions, wounds, rashes, or even receive lab results via pMD. Any picture you take in pMD is not saved onto your phone's camera roll, keeping your information private! 

Why Use pMD’s Remote Health Care Solutions


So, why use pMD instead of one of the other video solutions that have emerged in response to the need for remote health care? Beyond pMD’s 21 years in the mobile health care space, below are a few additional reasons:

Video Quality

Video quality is really important when completing telehealth visits and pMD is extremely committed to great quality and reliability in our app. Crisp video quality is required in many cases to make sure your provider is able to accurately assess the medical situation. pMD was built to be used on a mobile device which generally has a much better camera than older computers, as well as the ability to choose between wifi or cellular data usage - whichever allows for a better connection. 

Ease of connection

Many other telehealth platforms require both the patient and provider to log into a portal at the same time to complete a remote visit. We know that might not always be the easiest, or the most private option, especially if your computer happens to be in a communal spot in your home. Because pMD communication is conducted within our HIPAA-compliant application, your information is secure and a video call rings right through to your phone via pMD’s app, so you don’t have to be logged into pMD to wait for a call. 

Ease of use

pMD’s app only requires a one-time download from either the Google Play store or the App store. Once you download the app, you’ll be able to log into pMD with your cell phone number and biometric scanning (think fingerprint scanning or FaceID) or a password. Once you’re logged in, your secure communication abilities are endless! Gone are the days of having to wait for one-use verification links each time you log in or constantly being rerouted in order to connect with your health care provider.

Exceptional workflow features

If you’re a practice using pMD, you can have pMD automatically enroll your patients on pMD® Secure Messaging™, as well as remind them of their upcoming appointment a day or two ahead. After patients are invited, anyone in the practice can initiate a video call via pMD’s secure website or app to complete a telehealth appointment. Once the call is completed, both parties will receive an automated call receipt that includes the call duration. You’ll then be able to continue communicating via chat, voice call, or video call moving forward, if necessary. 

As a patient, once you’ve downloaded the app, you are set to receive voice calls, video calls, file attachments, chats, and voice memos from your practice! Need to reschedule your appointment or send a picture of a medication that needs to be refilled? Don’t dial a number from a menu only to wait on hold for several minutes. Submit your question to the practice via pMD! You also have the ability to refer back to a message instead of trying to remember what the voice on the other line said about your pre-appointment instructions.  

So how do you feel about the future of health care? Is this a change that will stay for the long run? pMD thinks so! We believe there is great value in keeping communication easy, convenient, and secure for practices and their patients. Please let us know if we can help get your practice set up on pMD’s telehealth platform.

Related Articles:

Building a Long-Term Telehealth Workflow

Helping Practices and Patients Navigate Telehealth When They Need It Most

pMD, the Most Valuable Player in Telehealth Platforms

To find out more about pMD's suite of products, which includes our charge capture and MIPS registrysecure messagingclinical communication, and care navigation software and services, please contact pMD.





Telehealth is not a new concept, but amid the recent public health concerns surrounding the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, it has catapulted to the top of most practices’ priority list. During this pandemic, it is essential to stay informed and know what free resources are available to your practice to help slow the spread of the virus while continuing to provide patients with a high level of care and reassurance. “The use of telemedicine is going to be critical for management of this pandemic,” said Dr. Stephen Parodi, an infectious disease specialist and executive with The Permanente Medical Group, the doctors’ group associated with Kaiser Permanente. 

Telemedicine a Good, Safe Option for COVID-19 Screening & Patient Care

When possible, using virtual visits provides a safe option for care, while helping contain the spread of the infection at hospitals, clinics, and medical offices. Implementing or expanding an existing telehealth strategy will enable health care organizations to safely screen and treat patients for coronavirus. If patients can receive virtual guidance to help know when they need to be seen or tested, we can limit the number of people who show up unannounced at the emergency room or doctor’s office as well as avoid crowded waiting rooms and potential infection. Good communication with patients is key to keeping the worried as calm as possible and away from clinical care so that practices can steer the most at risk to the proper treatment.

Updates To Telehealth Billing for Services During Pandemic

As part of an $8.3 billion emergency funding measure, the government has granted the Department of Human Health and Services (HHS) the ability to loosen restrictions on the use of telemedicine by broadening the originating requirements and providing a nationwide waiver during this emergency. CMS, state Medicaid agencies, and commercial insurers are taking steps to expand telehealth coverage and reimbursement. To improve access to care, CMS announced that during this crisis, Medicare will pay for telehealth services (conducted via video) regardless of the originating site. Private health insurers, including Aetna, Cigna, Humana, and United Healthcare, have also agreed to cover telehealth visits for the next 90 days in some states. Reimbursement policies vary from state to state, so practices are encouraged to confirm local guidelines. 

For more information, please see CMS’s frequently asked questions for health care providers and fact sheet for telehealth services. You can also find additional information regarding new telehealth rules and procedure codes for testing on the American Academy of Family Physicians website. 

pMD’s Free Telehealth Tools

pMD® Secure Messaging™ provides a secure, HIPAA compliant free telemedicine platform solution that allows practices to connect, triage, and follow up with patients through secure, HIPAA-compliant text, video, and voice calling. You can easily invite patients to download the application at no cost to facilitate timely communication when it matters most:

          * provide health safety guidelines and recommendations
          * share important practice updates and announcements
          * outreach to your most vulnerable patient population
          * perform telehealth visits with patients advised not to leave their homes

For help setting up patient communication or to contact pMD customer support, please give us a call at 800-587-4989 x1 or email support@pmd.com. 

Stay safe, everyone!


To find out more about pMD's suite of products, which includes our charge capture and MIPS registrysecure messagingclinical communication, and care navigation software and services, please contact pMD.


Patient Compliance and Empowerment




There are a few universal truths in health care that affect every facility, office, and provider. One such truth is that inevitably patients will not remember or lose instructions that may be issued to them prior to or following a procedure or office visit. These instructions are often vital and have consequences for the well-being of the patient and the financial well-being of the practice. 

To be fair, I am just as guilty of this as anyone else and I have worked in health care for well over a decade! For those unaccustomed to the busy and oftentimes confusing health care universe, having to remember every piece of pre-op or post-visit instruction can be unrealistic and forgetting could lead to complications ranging from minor to severe. Currently, the standard is to provide patients with xerox copies of pre-op instructions a few days to even weeks before a planned procedure and then a post-op packet of a similar nature. Ultimately, these items may be lost or misplaced, leading to the issues of non-compliance and the under-utilization of resources that could be invaluable to the patient. 

With the potential to lose or misplace paper copies, what if there were a way to communicate this information to our patients that would stay with them everywhere they go? What if the patient had the ability to access and refer to this information at a moment's notice? The majority of the population in the United States heavily rely on a mobile device to not just make phone calls but to complete daily tasks ranging from surfing the web to doing their banking. These devices have become ubiquitous in our society and they are with us nearly everywhere we go and at all times.

The major issue that prevents the use of this tool in health care is that these devices are not secure and HIPAA laws prevent us from capitalizing on this opportunity. pMD saw this need and created the opportunity to offer patients a better source of information and access to resources through the HIPAA-compliant, free secure messaging application. 

Imagine the ability to send patients a PDF of all the pertinent instructions they need to know prior to or following a visit or procedure that flows straight to their fingertips! Within just a few seconds, a provider or staff member can invite a patient to communicate via the pMD app and provide information that is readily accessible. 

In addition, the use of patient chat routers in pMD gives the patient a level of empowerment to seek answers to questions that may otherwise go unasked. As technology advances, messaging is becoming more and more the preferred method of communication for a large percentage of our population. The ability to allow a patient to select a topic from a drop-down menu and type a question that is then automatically routed to the most appropriate individual at a practice seems simple on our side but can also be immensely empowering to a patient that might otherwise not seek help with an issue.

For example, giving a new mother the ability to reach out to lactation support or an oncology patient the ability to quickly pose a question to nutritional services! These are questions that often times will go unasked because the patient does not feel it rises to the level of importance for a phone call, but is still an ongoing source of stress and uncertainty for them. 

pMD’s patient chat routers are customizable, secure, and provide answers to the populations we are dedicated to serving in a way that protects health care providers' privacy as well.


To find out more about pMD's suite of products, which includes our charge capture and MIPS registrysecure messagingclinical communication, and care navigation software and services, please contact pMD.


Recipe for Success


In 2013, approximately 7.96 million patients discharged from an acute care facility required some type of post-acute care service, representing 22.3% of all acute care discharges. With changes in reimbursement and providers assuming more risk, it is understandable that health systems and providers are seeking to better understand and manage this patient population.

Traditionally, post-acute care has been fragmented and disjointed at every level with little investment in creating a seamless transition across the care continuum. I entered the post-acute world in late 2009 and was astonished at the accepted paths of communication between health systems, providers, and the post-acute care companies caring for these patients. In my experience, I would say that the most accurate way to describe the coordination of patient care in this environment is ‘poor.’

In the overwhelming majority, there is no efficient collaboration between the acute care and post-acute care worlds. Providers have been left to piecemeal and bootstrap their own, oftentimes clunky and cumbersome, solutions for the ongoing communication required in managing this patient population. These solutions tend not to be secure and are woefully inadequate, lending to the issue of readmissions and sentinel events that have plagued our health care system. 

The amount of information that needs to flow between providers and the companies caring for these patients can be daunting, especially when the provider has another patient population to manage that is in the acute setting. Traditional landlines and fax machines are sadly the standard in coordinating patient care and the reliability is just not there. Today’s providers are busy and often will not immediately receive that fax or voicemail seeking orders to deal with a critical lab value, evaluate a concern for a post OP infection, or make decisions regarding end of life care. The RNs in the field visiting these patients have done the best they can with the means they’ve been given but the ability to securely communicate in an organized and timely fashion has remained out of reach.

As mentioned above, the days of patients getting readmitted to the emergency room due to inefficient communication are drawing to a close, thanks to penalties in reimbursements that providers are facing. There are options that exists today with pMD® Clinical Communication™ that allow for a seamless and timely flow of communication between post-acute providers in the field and the physicians that are following their care. 

This can currently be done in real time - issues brought up and issues solved by creating a secure, direct line of communication between individuals responsible for the care of these patients. The ability for a physician to quickly shift from one population to another, review pertinent historical information, and issue orders of corrective action directly from their smartphone exists. If properly implemented, it can make a difference in the outcome of the patients we serve and avoid the readmission penalties that have hurt providers.

With just a small amount of effort, the abilities and impacts are nearly endless in bolstering the communication between the acute and post-acute worlds. For example, the ability for a physician and collaborating pharmacist to receive an automated alert to their smartphone or desktop which is tied to a specific patient, would solve a persistent and frustrating problem in that community that often requires printed or faxed documentation. Oh, and it also creates a better situation for the patient, reducing the potential negative impact on their well-being.

This is just one example, but it is a scenario that I have seen play out numerous times over. Enhancing our communities’ ability to talk and share documents, photos, and video efficiently in a HIPAA-compliant fashion can improve outcomes and save lives. That is what we are here for ... isn't it?

Find out more about pMD's suite of products, which includes our MIPS registry, charge capture, secure messaging, clinical communication, and care navigation software and services, please contact pMD.


Chat with Patients: A Case for Secure Patient Text Messaging


Chat with Patients? A Case for Secure Patient Text Messaging

Recently, I was talking with a physician who is a new pMD customer. We were having a great conversation as she sought to satisfy her curiosity with how to get the most from the pMD software. Then I mentioned our new Chat with Patients feature, and she turned away from me, her previous openness instantly gone. She made a half turn away and laughed dryly, “Oh God. No.”

This was not surprising. The idea of patients having unfettered access to a doctor’s phone can seem like the loss of a last vestige of privacy, unfiltered patient needs adding to the cacophony of the many already trying to reach them.

So I shared a different story, one not filled with an endless interruption and immediate need. This type of communication can be better for both the medical provider and the patient receiving care. Surgery offers one compelling example.

Patient Text Messaging Before & After Surgery

Surgery represents a great opportunity to connect with patients via secure text for the following reasons: there is a clear episode of care, which includes a scheduled procedure, preceded by an instruction-filled pre-operative visit and followed by a post-operative period where concerns over pain, discomfort, new medications, and other follow up issues often emerge.

There are problems with other types of communication. Phone calls can offer endless rounds of telephone tag and voicemails, and email messages often are lost, misunderstood, or don’t have immediacy. Further, for patients who work, calls to workplaces and messages left can create privacy concerns. So, having a way to securely text and communicate in an asynchronous and timely way - texts don’t pile up the way emails do - can offer both better clinical outcomes and higher patient satisfaction.

Using Chat with Patients App Feature: The Process & Results

Below is the process for how a current pMD user is using the new Chat tools for text messaging with patients:

The scheduling coordinator invites patients who have a capable smartphone as part of their pre-operative process. She lets the patients know that pMD is a tool for them to have a direct contact as they go through their procedure.

She has found that younger patients have no issues with loading and using pMD and neither, to her surprise, did older patients. As long as they have a supported iPhone or Android, they have been able to easily download the app and get started.

Patient Text Messaging Helps Avoid Surgery Rescheduling

Prior to their procedure, patients commonly reach out to her with questions about the timing of the surgery, medications, and location of the facility where the procedure will take place. So far, at least one patient was saved from missing their surgery as they asked about a medication which, had they taken it, would have caused their surgery to be rescheduled.

Chatting with Patients After Surgery

The types of messages the coordinator receives after surgery often include those of the “what is normal?” variety, as well as questions about pain, medications, and the timing and location of follow up appointments. Having an easy way for patients to ask these questions helps avoid readmissions and missed appointments and allows the practice to stay on top of patient outcomes!

Secure Patient Messaging with pMD a “Real Life Saver”
The scheduling coordinator reports the following on using pMD as a tool to connect with patients:

"This has made such a huge difference in my contact with patients. They work, and texting them is so much simpler and more convenient than calling or email. I also love that it's not invasive. They don’t get my private info. This has been a real life-saver for me."

I also had the opportunity to connect with a patient using the platform, who reported more satisfaction with the care they received and a closer bond to the practice providing the care:

“Using the pMD app was a real anxiety reducer. If you have a question and something’s not right, you can get an answer through the pMD app. It’s immediate. You feel closer to the doctor and staff. It’s more personal. The app was very easy to download and use. I would recommend this to everyone! Doctor’s offices could really cut down on the number of phone calls. I would prefer practices that use this type of technology!”

I shared this story with the physician, and her demeanor quickly changed. Her practice is in the process of hiring a nurse to contact all their procedural patients, and pMD’s Chat with Patients would be a more effective way of connecting. With the right plan, secure patient text messaging offers unique and compelling benefits. Contact us and we will help you put a winning plan together!

Find out more about pMD's suite of products, which includes our MIPS registry, charge capture, secure messaging, clinical communication, and care navigation software and services, please contact pMD.
Related Articles:
Health Care Communication: Electronic Vs. Paper Follow Up for Millennials
Beyond Secure Messaging: Rich Communication Via Video Chat
What’s the Right HIPAA-Compliant Communication Platform For You?


Design Thinking: An Empathetic Approach to Innovation article


Design Thinking: An Empathetic Approach to Innovation

The original Apple computer mouse. A children’s toothbrush with a fat, grippy handle. pMD’s secure chat with patients. What do they have in common? They are all prime examples of products born from a thorough design thinking process.

What is Design Thinking?

At its core, design thinking can be defined as a human-centered approach to problem-solving. The process of design thinking is often simplified into five steps: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test.

Design Thinking Model

(source: Stanford d.school)

In my discussion, I’ll take a deeper dive into the first two steps (and arguably most important): empathizing with the human and defining the problem.

Empathy and Definition in Design Thinking

What do empathy and problem definition look like in practice?

In 1966, designers were approached to reimagine a children's toothbrush. At the time, all children’s toothbrushes were fairly similar: shorter versions of adult brushes, which were skinny sticks with a brush head. The designers spent a large amount of time simply watching children and adults brush their teeth. What they discovered was revolutionary -- children, unlike adults, gripped the brush with a clenched fist. In contrast, adults displayed increased dexterity and balanced the brush between their fingers. To tackle this difference, the design team created a new toothbrush featuring a thicker handle lined with squishy gel. An adult might not care for the design, but to a child, the thick handle and colorful, grippy gel made all the difference. That model quickly became the best-selling toothbrush worldwide...for the next 18 months. Needless to say, the rest of the market caught on, and now all children’s toothbrushes still feature the same original design elements: a fat handle with grippy gel.

The reason for the success of the children’s toothbrush is that the design team first empathized with the human (“Why is brushing my teeth no fun?!”) before defining the problem they were actually solving (“Why is my toothbrush difficult to use and hold?”). Connecting with the customer is arguably the most important part of design thinking, because without the human connection, designs often miss the mark for real-life use cases.

Design Thinking at pMD: Empathy is #1

Empathy forms the basis of all pMD interactions with customers. In meetings and on support calls, before diving right into what might be wrong or how customers might need our help, we first make sure to check in and ask how their day is going or what exciting plans they have made for the weekend. Talking with customers about their daily life not only shows that we see them as real people with real lives, but these seemingly trivial conversations can also yield intriguing insights into how we can improve our products. For example, when talking with some of our users, we found their day was less than ideal due to an increased amount of time spent playing phone tag with patients. This led to an internal discussion about improving provider communication with patients and ultimately resulted in a new Chat with Patients feature available soon for all users of pMD. Through constant refinement and testing, we eventually created a solution that both providers and patients love. This positive response stems from a deeply-rooted passion for the most important steps of design thinking: empathizing with people and hearing their real problems. At pMD, we wear many hats, but the one that we wear first and most proudly is the hat of empathy. When empathy and design connect, wonderful solutions abound:

Customer Reviews of pMD Chat with Patients

I urge you to challenge convention and speak to your customers on a more personal level. Instead of viewing customers as numbers on a spreadsheet, see them as people that you can help in ways you haven’t yet discovered.

Find out more about pMD's suite of products, which includes our MIPS registry, charge capture, secure messaging, clinical communication, and care navigation software and services, please contact pMD.


Healthcare communication


Coordinating a patient’s care is complex. Professionals from a variety of disciplines deliver care to a single patient at various times throughout the day. Specialists may be traveling from several different locations from across a city to where this one patient is receiving care. And all of this complexity limits the chance for care teams to reliably connect with each other regarding the current plan for a patient’s care.  This is when inefficiencies and medical errors arise.

Ineffective Healthcare Communication Causes Medical Errors

The growing body of research on medical error prevention reveals that ineffective or insufficient healthcare communication among care team members is a significant contributing factor to adverse events. Ineffective communication is at the root of nearly three of every four medical errors. Industry studies have classified communication errors that led to inefficiencies and medical error into a few buckets:

1) Communication that was simply too late to be helpful for the patient.
2) Failure to include the whole care team in communication about a patient.
3) Communications that proposed an action where that action was not completed.

Thus, access to a common healthcare communication platform that can link up multiple providers and support clarity in communication during the critical seconds of need must be implemented to help stop avoidable medical errors.

Reduce Medical Errors with pMD’s Healthcare Communication Platform

At pMD, we’re passionate about reducing those avoidable medical errors and saving lives. pMD’s HIPAA-compliant clinical communication and free secure messaging platforms are one key way we’re doing just that.

1) We know that texting is a quick, easy method to connect a team and convey information that can save lives. So, we’re proud to provide a proven, secure communication platform to support healthcare teams - for free.  

2) Sending images securely, including labs, diagnostic images, skin conditions, or wounds post-surgery, can link internists to specialists, residents to attendings, and patients directly to triage nurses.

3) We know that with text alone, a message can lose the inflection, emotion, or intensity intended by the sender.  So, we’ll be adding the ability to send and receive voice memos, giving messages back the volume, pitch, rhythm, and speed that can help convey a clear message.

4) And we know that verbal and non-verbal aspects of communication can be vital in ensuring clarity. Therefore, we’ll also be adding HIPAA-compliant video communication capabilities, even to our free secure messaging platform, to execute care team huddles from anywhere, to facilitate the integration of specialists, and to even host telemedicine encounters directly with patients or medical decision-makers.

At pMD, we know a text, picture, voice memo, or video encounter can vastly improve the clarity of communication. By utilizing a common secure healthcare communication platform which includes the right individuals at the right time, we can reduce medical errors and save thousands of lives.  For more information, or to easily sign up for free pMD® Secure Messaging™, please visit us here!

Find out more about pMD's suite of products, which includes our MIPS registry, charge capture, secure messaging, clinical communication, and care navigation software and services, please contact pMD.



Secure video chat


Last year we were excited to announce the launch of our free Secure Messaging product, which is now enabling thousands of health care providers across the United States to communicate in a way that’s convenient and secure. As that offering has gained adoption, we’ve been actively soliciting feedback from our user base in order to understand how we can continue to make the product better for them. One of our biggest takeaways has been that, while secure text messaging has indeed addressed a major pain point, there are additional scenarios where a richer form of communication would be helpful.

That’s why we’re excited to announce the upcoming release of secure video chat capability.  This new feature will enable providers to utilize pMD to quickly get a second opinion from another clinician, connect with a nurse at a remote clinic, or even chat directly with a patient who may not be able to leave his or her home. Best of all, video chat will be built into our free Secure Messaging product.

Secure Video Chat Added to Free App for Bigger Impact on Health Care


We know that often, vendors dangle new features behind a paywall, or an upgrade requirement, rather than shipping them directly to their customers. However, our philosophy at pMD has always been, first and foremost, to help clinicians provide better patient care.  The cutting edge design agency, Chagency, sums up this approach well in a recent blog post, suggesting, “Help [your users] grow so you can grow together.” To accomplish this, we push down as much value into our free offering as we possibly can, knowing that the more people who benefit from pMD, the bigger the impact we’re able to have on health care in this country.

pMD Product Suite Growing to Improve Health Care Communication


We’re extremely excited about this upcoming enhancement to pMD’s product suite. We look forward to continuing to gather feedback from our customers as they leverage this new tool to improve their care delivery. Most importantly, we’re not done innovating. In fact, we’re just at the beginning of a compelling roadmap of new features to empower richer communications in health care.

 
App with secure video chat capability

Find out more about pMD's suite of products, which includes our MIPS registry, charge capture, secure messaging, clinical communication, and care navigation software and services, please contact pMD.






250,000. That is the number of deaths from medical error calculated in a study by patient safety researchers at Johns Hopkins. That would make medical error the third leading cause of death in the United States, outnumbered only by heart disease and cancer. Medical error is a problem that can affect anyone. Unfortunately, this doesn’t get the same amount of attention as other issues facing health care. Comparing medical error to the current drug epidemic in the United States, the Johns Hopkins report would put the death toll from medical error at 3.5 times the number of individuals killed by drug overdoses in 2016. However, thanks to great work being done by groups like IHI and AHRQ, as well as patient safety researchers, there are steps the health care industry can take to reduce medical error.

It is worth saying that Johns Hopkins’ estimate of 250,000 isn’t without criticism. Health care systems in the United States differ dramatically by location and finding a reliable estimate of the number of patients severely affected by medical error is no easy task. This difficulty is compounded by the fact that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) does not register medical errors as a formal cause of death and that the causes of medical error are hard to solve. Studies have found that common causes of medical error include fatigue, inadequate supervision, inadequate experience, and faulty communication. These causes are often institutional failures and can't be addressed by simply flipping a switch. So, what can be done in the face of a problem with such a broad scope and no single solution? And what can an individual practice do to start addressing medical errors in their own backyard?

One example of something hospitals could do to begin addressing this issue is to implement common sense systems to catch errors before they affect a patient. For example, medication errors, a common source for medical error, can be dramatically reduced by implementing systems like Barcode Medication Administration (BCMA), where a doctor or nurse scans the medication before giving it to the patient. This simple step gives the computer a chance to check the provider’s work. But, it isn’t necessary to implement new systems that can cost a practice thousands of dollars a year. For smaller clinics, simply applying “Do not Disturb” rules whereby those administering medication are able to work in a quiet place, free from interruption, was shown to reduce the error rate of those administering medication by roughly the same amount. Another key focus of patient safety research is patient handoff. Because of the complexity and variety of patients’ conditions, patient handoffs must adjust to fit the patient's situation and do have the potential to be a large source of communication errors. However, one study looking at patient handoffs found that implementing a mnemonic device, called I-PASS, to guide physicians through patient handoffs reduced adverse events by almost a third. Simple changes like using the I-PASS method are inexpensive and are designed to ensure that all critical patient information is communicated effectively and in a timely manner. Implementing these changes doesn’t have to come at the cost of reducing the quality of patient care. The same study found that there was no increase in time spent conducting patient handoffs and there was no decrease in time spent with patients.

Humans are prone to making mistakes, and doctors are no exception. One report says that rather than blaming individuals for mistakes, institutions can create a culture of safety in the workplace and design their systems to protect patients, making patients safer while unburdening doctors with the stress of being one simple mistake away from being on the bad end of a tragic statistic. pMD is proud to work with health care teams to promote communication in the hopes of preventing medical error and improving patient care.

Find out more about pMD's suite of products, which includes our MIPS registry, charge capture, secure messaging, clinical communication, and care navigation software and services, please contact pMD.









At pMD, our goal is to always push the envelope to help make providers’ lives easier and ultimately improve the quality of patient care. We are constantly updating our application to be as robust as possible and releasing new features that increase provider productivity. Recently, the pMD engineering team has been focusing on polishing our secure messaging features and among those items is encrypted push notifications. While “encrypted push notifications” may sound a bit boring, it is actually a very exciting feature that will greatly improve our users’ experience while using pMD® Secure Messaging™. But before talking about that, I want to briefly discuss the term ‘encryption’.

Simply put, encryption is a way to convert information into gobbledygook in order to prevent unauthorized access to that information. Encryption works by using an encryption algorithm, or set of rules, along with an encryption key. When text is processed by an encryption algorithm, it is unreadable until it is translated back to readable text using the same algorithm and the encryption key.

To illustrate this we can observe the Caeser Cipher, one of the oldest encryption methods in the world. The Caeser Cipher works by replacing each letter in a text and shifting the letter over by a certain number of positions in the alphabet. For example, with a shift of 2 the letter ‘A’ becomes the letter ‘C’, the letter ‘D’ becomes the letter ‘F’ and so on. So if we use “hello” as our text and our key (the number of times we move a letter) is 2, “hello” will become “jgnnq”. To convert our text back we simply do the reverse of our algorithm with our key of 2 and voila! The text turns back to “hello”! Now that you know the basics of encryption, let’s return to our topic of encrypted message notifications.

Messaging applications have become so commonplace that certain features are expected to be included in every messaging application. One of these staple features is being able to read the message body from a notification on your device’s locked screen. Though it may sound straightforward, this wasn’t actually possible to do when pMD originally released our secure messaging service, simply because we had no way of encrypting our notification! No encryption, no HIPAA-compliance! It wasn’t until Apple released some code that our developers were able to process an incoming pMD notification before displaying its contents. This means that we can encrypt the notification when sending it to a user’s device and decrypt the contents upon arrival to the user’s device.

What does this mean for the our users? The biggest win for our users is being able to read the pMD message directly from their locked screen! At pMD, we all use pMD® Secure Messaging™ to communicate with each other and understand that sometimes, it’s inconvenient to unlock your phone, tap on pMD, tap on the messages tab, and finally tap on the conversation to read the received message. With this feature, we bring a positive contribution to the overall experience of using pMD.

Find out more about pMD's suite of products, which includes our MIPS registry, charge capture, secure messaging, clinical communication, and care navigation software and services, please contact pMD.