Sending dental X-rays: why email should not be your option

In recent years, one of the growing concerns in dentistry is the increase of email use to transfer patient health records.

Jun 1st, 2012

By Lorne Lavine, DMD

In recent years, one of the growing concerns in dentistry is the increase of email use to transfer patient health records. As dental treatments have traditionally required referring patients to outside specialists, there has been a growing need to send their health records electronically. The mindset of email being an efficient method has misled many dental practices into thinking that email is the best alternative to printing.

Dentists now realize they must end the use of email for sending health records, but what do they do instead? Many have been comforted that they can continue to share online without the risk of an IT overhaul. New online platforms, such as the one provided by eDossea (http://www.edossea.com/), have made it easy to send files electronically. This new technology has surprised the dentists who have used it by how much it has improved the referral process.

The success of online file sharing as opposed to emailing has been led by the following factors:

Image quality: I can’t tell you how many deteriorated X-rays I’ve seen as a result of X-rays being sent by email. The reason for this is that emailing images compresses a file before it arrives in the receiver’s inbox. Often, the downloading process will fail to restore original quality. A file-sharing service can preserve images in their original format, ensuring the receiver will not have to ask you to resend the image or retake the X-ray.

Social media improves image sharing: A few years ago, it was not uncommon for us to send multiple pictures by email to friends and family. Although each image required downloading, we thought this was the best way until social media came along. Today, we just upload dozens (if not hundreds) of pictures to a website, tag our friends or colleagues, and it’s done! Most of your staff members already use this, so the concept of a health record-sharing site is not a reach.

Patients care about online security: Identity theft is a growing concern, and patients are becoming more educated as to how to protect themselves. Whether identifiable information (such as DOB, SSN, medical history) is with their bank, doctor, or other entities, their inquiries on how it is exchanged are more common. One patient’s call to your office asking if you’ve sent their information through unencrypted emails could raise concerns and the potential for legal actions.

HIPAA enforcement: Outside of your patients’ concerns about security comes the driving need from HIPAA to encrypt and protect your electronic records. Random audits of small practices in 2012 have caused many dentists to move quickly and erase former habits, such as emailing. Signing up for an approved file-sharing service is one the easiest ways to ensure protection while continuing to send patient records electronically.

Lost files: New spam blockers or an upgrade of antivirus protection can wipe out the emails you were previously sending to other offices. It is business as usual for your practice until your patients arrive at the specialist’s office you referred them to and find out their files have not arrived.

No more retakes: The issues of lost quality and lost files have led to patients having X-rays retaken after being referred. The publicized cancer risks from radiation have many patients afraid of X-rays. Another concern is the cost, which comes back to the practice or is passed on to the patient. Since you were the referring dentist, this can quietly come back to reflect on your professional judgment.

Centralized location: A file-sharing platform is one the best tools for multiple doctors to communicate while treating a patient. Sending X-rays back and forth while tracking multiple emails and phone calls for one treatment scenario is becoming a thing of the past. Now it can all be managed online in one secured website.

The team at eDossea has launched a program that answers the need for exchanging digital records. Their cloud-based file-sharing technology caters to dentists and oral specialists, many of whom have reduced expenses and enhanced their ability to share patient files. eDossea handles more than just X-rays — referral forms, patient notes, and more are regularly exchanged through the program. Regardless of which IT system the dental office uses, dental professionals can access files through a web browser and share with outside clinics, even those that are not members of eDossea. The service is now available to dentists for one monthly fee with no setup costs.

Now that the dental industry knows to shy away from emailing records, file sharing has become the answer. Its rising popularity has been backed by the success of dentists who champion new technology. Many dentists realize that an online file-sharing service requires minimal training and is one of the easiest IT decisions they will make.

Lorne Lavine, DMD, practiced periodontics and implant dentistry for more than 10 years. He is an A+ certified computer technician, as well as Network+ certified. He is the president of Dental Technology Consultants, a company that assists dentists in all phases of technology integration in the dental practice. He can be reached by e-mail at drlavine@thedigitaldentist.com or by phone at (866) 204-2298. Visit his website at www.thedigitaldentist.com.

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