4 min read
Prowers Medical Center is a 25-bed critical access hospital that serves the southeast Colorado region’s 20,000 residents. The hospital offers a wide range of important health services for the community. This is particularly important for this area, as the next closest hospital is an hour away – much too far to go when you’re in labor or having a heart attack. Prowers offers everything from emergency services and obstetrics to surgery, from outpatient rehabilitation to heart care. Its outpatient multispecialty services include audiology, orthopedics, cancer care, and sleep services. Primary care, home health services, lab, and imaging are all available on site as well.
Protect patients’ PHI in every email, with no extra steps
As a hospital, Prowers is required to abide by HIPAA and protect patient information. As patients began to expect more and more hospital communications to be conducted via email, Prowers searched for a HIPAA compliant email solution.
At first, the IT department looked to a vendor that Prowers had an existing relationship with. “We used that vendor as our spam filter, and so we decided to try their email encryption as well. In a word, it was painful,” said Jason Spano, Prowers’ director of IT.
That vendor’s approach puts the onus on users to remember to type in a certain command or word to trigger encryption. Prowers established a keyword, which users frequently misspelled. And since that vendor’s auto-encryption feature was not very accurate, according to Spano, it wasn’t really helping employees secure every email that needed protection.
"Our previous email encryption method required email recipients to log in to a portal to retrieve their encrypted messages." That meant that patients had to set up an account and password in order to receive email from Prowers. In addition, if they ever wanted to search for that email at a later time, they couldn’t – the message had never made it into their inbox.
“Before, we just wouldn’t send protected health information (PHI) over email because it was such a headache. But when people began to prefer to receive information digitally, we had to,” Spano noted.
Prowers learned about Paubox when it started receiving encrypted emails from another Paubox customer. “It’s a funny story, actually. At first, we thought we didn’t like Paubox, because we thought that it required logging in to a portal. But that issue was caused by a problem with our [Microsoft] Exchange server, not with Paubox. As soon as we configured our server properly, we saw how well Paubox works,” Spano explained.
The Prowers team was looking for something that would make email encryption easier for staff to use. “The end user is the weakest link in a lot of aspects of information security,” Spano said. “We can put up all the firewalls in the world, but the user can still thwart them. Paubox fixed that because there are no steps for the user to take.”
Paubox Email Suite is different from all other solutions because there are zero steps for senders or recipients to take. No portals or logins are required – senders just hit “send,” and recipients just click “open;” and every email is encrypted automatically. Paubox uses the NSA’s recommended TLS 1.2encryption or above, and our solutions are HITRUST CSF certified, the healthcare industry’s gold standard for HIPAA compliance.
Implementing Paubox Email Suite was the quickest and easiest process Spano has ever had during his time at Prowers. “It was so easy. It was great – the best IT project I’ve ever been a part of,” he confirmed.
The Prowers team has gained valuable time and peace of mind with Paubox. Since December, Paubox has encrypted more than 18,000 emails on behalf of 103 senders. “End users love it because they don’t have to use the keywords,” Spano said.
Hospital employees have saved many hours a week using Paubox. For example, before Paubox, Spano’s security team would meet several times per week to review every instance in which an email went out unencrypted. “Now, we don’t have to worry about that at all. I get weekly reports from Paubox, which I forward to my colleagues – many hours of work and many meetings have been replaced by a single email a week,” Spano added.
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