App locks down doc communications

Mobile app locks down physician communications

With developing a HIPAA-compliant messaging system for physicians on the top of many an agenda, a new partnership between two mHealth companies is gaining notice. Announced at last week's American Telemedicine Association meeting in Austin, Texas, Medweb and DocbookMD have unveiled Docbook Gateway, a mobile application designed to enable clinicians to communicate and share labs, images and reports via mobile device with other clinicians.

"The reality is that physicians have a tough time getting through health information exchanges because they're so complex," said Pete Kilcommons, MD, president and CEO of San Francisco-based Medweb, which provides a platform for the sharing of radiology, telemedicine and disaster response IT solutions. "This allows them to communicate much easier, yet still in a secure [environment], when and where they need to."

While Medweb supplies the platform, DocbookMD, based in Austin, provides the HIPAA-compliant messaging application. Launched roughly five years ago, the company, co-founded by physicians Timothy C. Gueramy, MD, and Tracey A. Haas, DO, MPH, focuses on creating links for physicians. To that end, DocbookMD has forged partnerships with medical associations in 33 states and developed a network of more than 200,000 doctors.

Those partnerships provide the backbone for the secure messaging service, Gueramy and Haas said, because they ensure that everyone in the communications platform is supposed to be there.

"We're leveraging technology to support advocacy," said Gueramy, the company's CEO, who notes that physicians will use the network if they're sure that their messages and links are protected and they're reaching the right people at the right time.

Added Haas, who's the company's chief medical officer: "We're kicking it up a notch with Medweb, giving [physicians] more tools" to share information.

Gueramy and Haas said the DocbookMD application uses cloud-based servers to store data and requires all users to sign a HIPAA business agreement before joining the network. Messages are encrypted and securely stored, they said, and can be wiped off the user's mobile device if it's lost or stolen.

Gueramy and Haas said the service is especially attractive to physicians who want to communicate with other members of a patient's care team in real time and need to access patient records in a hospital's EMR or images and X-rays stored somewhere else. The Docbook Gateway brings all of the necessary clinicians into the conversation to consult on images and test results, and allows the primary physician to reach out and seek help from specialists in the network.

Those benefits were explained by two physicians in a Docbook-Medweb press release issued on May 5:

"When suggesting a consult in a different specialty to a patient, I'll dial up that specialist and discuss the options the patient has while looking at the picture and the doctor's resumé," said Steve Roberts, MD, of Tyler, Texas. "The patient feels he knows something about the consultant and this loosens up the early stages of the first visit."

"During a visit to the hemodialysis unit, I saw a patient who had an inflamed vascular access graft, and which I felt needed immediate attention," said George Lai, MD, a physician in Contra Costa, Calif., who specializes in nephrology. "With the use of DockbookMD I was able to take a picture of the wound with my phone and send it to a vascular surgeon. He quickly took a look at it and replied to me to send the patient to his office. The patient was admitted to the hospital to have the graft removed. We were able to transmit the image securely using DocbookMD."

"The utility has been a great help in providing secure, quick communication between physicians," Lau added. "The simple ability of sharing (a) patient's labs, photos, reports, etc., in an instant manner generates faster collaboration between doctors and ultimately better care for patients."