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Secure Messaging

Enhanced Secure Messaging – the Path to Interoperability

Digital healthcare provides clinicians with fast and reliable access to patient records, in turn, improving efficiencies in coordinated clinical care and ultimately supporting better patient outcomes.

What is Secure Messaging?

Secure messaging enables the encrypted electronic exchange of patient healthcare information between healthcare providers. Point-to-point delivery of messages such as discharge summaries, referrals, requests and results represent the typical use case.

The electronic message is encrypted by the sender and decrypted by the receiver and therefore cannot be read if intercepted in transit.

Software vendors and their solutions, built to facilitate secure message delivery, are well established in Australasia, some with over 25 years in the market.

It’s fair to say that the majority of practices have had some exposure to secure message service providers (eg, Telstra Health Argus, Healthlink, Medical Objects and ReferralNet) and may even have more than one service enabled.

Why Does Secure Messaging Matter?

In a shared care environment, where it is necessary to exchange healthcare information, secure messaging ensures that the highest level of security and privacy is maintained. Protecting a Patient’s sensitive, healthcare information and in alignment with the Privacy Act 1988.

In addition, the benefits of exchanging data electronically and securely include speed, efficiency, lower risk and reduced cost.

Why are Healthcare Providers Still Printing, Faxing, Mailing and Emailing?

Despite the widespread adoption of secure messaging, the individual secure messaging service providers have approached messaging differently. Inherently incompatible, they have been largely unable to exchange information with one another.

Further, messages generated by a Healthcare provider may only be addressed to Healthcare provider recipients listed in their local address book or Directory. The address information available, sometimes being out of date and often restricted to recipients using the same secure messaging delivery service.

What is Changing?

The Australian Digital Health Agency is leading a program of change, to enhance interoperability standards for secure messaging. This initiative is in direct support of the National Digital Health Strategy, to reduce barriers to using secure electronic exchange of health data. Ultimately, ending the dependence on paper-based correspondence and outdated, unsecure technology such as fax machines in healthcare.

Two key things are changing:

First is the introduction of federated provider directory capability, enabling clinical information systems and secure messaging delivery systems to search cross-directory to find accurate, trusted and validated   healthcare provider electronic addresses.

Second, software providers are enhancing the message exchange format to meet an agreed standardized specification for message content – streamlined to improve interoperability across disparate service providers and clinical systems.

How is Best Practice Software Getting Involved?

Best Practice Software has actively participated in the collaboration between software providers and government bodies, to define interoperability standards for secure messaging solutions.

The development to enhance secure messaging and be conformant to the ADHA specification is currently in testing phase and the enhanced functionality will be available in Bp Premier Saffron and VIP.net Ruby SP3 in the coming months.

When Will Enhanced Secure Messaging be Available More Widely?

There are 42 software organisations taking part in the ADHA secure messaging enhancement initiative, the change program is scheduled to conclude this October so there are certainly exciting times ahead for improved data workflows and efficiencies!

Authored by:

Monica Reed
Commercial & Customer Enablement Manager at Best Practice Software