The popularity of consumer messaging services like WhatsApp among healthcare professionals has been a concern for regulators in recent years – especially in the wake of a series of high-profile patient data breaches.
Clinicians, keen to collaborate with peers both inside and outside their organisations and across disciplines, are scrambling to find a means of communicating easily and quickly, while ensuring data security risks are minimised.
The introduction of the European General Data Protection Regulations in 2018 brought fresh legal and practical implications for the use of mobile messaging services within, and increasingly across, healthcare settings – where care continues to transcend physical and geographic boundaries and clinicians work in teams rather than across shifts. While health leaders recognise that sharing patient information and expertise via smartphone messaging is convenient and – to many – an efficient means to communicate vital information quickly, it needs to be done properly.
Professor Holger Eggebrecht was one of those keenly searching for a tool that ticked all the right boxes and currently serves as a heart specialist at Frankfurt’s CCB Cardiology Centre, a specialist hub for the Rhein-Main region.
‘Around two years ago, I was receiving electrocardiograms (ECGs) and related questions from colleagues every day via WhatsApp. I quickly realised that almost everyone exchanging patient data using that app in Germany would be breaking data privacy rules,’ he explains.
‘My idea was initially to develop my own messenger app to overcome this issue, but when I began researching, I found Siilo Messenger.’
Built-in safety and privacy with Siilo Messenger
Siilo Messenger allows staff within Professor Eggebrecht’s clinical team to quickly discuss sensitive patient cases and make decisions around appropriate treatment options within a sealed environment.
‘Everyone could quickly see the immediate safety benefits,’ Professor Eggebrecht says. ‘For example, the app doesn’t store images in the smartphone’s camera roll and so we’ve been using it as a ‘container solution’ for clinical work and case-based decisions.’
Medical photos and videos are encrypted and stored separately from any personal media held on a user’s device. Any data passed between Siilo users is deleted by default after 30 days, with access to the app itself is protected with a PIN, facial recognition or fingerprint scan.
Sharing best practice within a clinical specialty
Professionals within a range of cardiology sub-specialties are increasingly taking advantage of Siilo to share study findings and patient case studies to continue their professional and clinical development.
Once Nef saw what was possible with Siilo, he decided to try and increase its use among his colleagues across the country.
Nef explains: ‘We also created Siilo groups within our national working group of interventional cardiology (AGIK). We have a working group which consists of more than 1,500 members. Of these members, currently 200 interventional cardiologists are connected within our national Siilo group.’
Nef and his colleagues can easily share pictures, video and journal articles with his peers across the country at the touch of a button.
Besides the ability to effortlessly send text, images, video and documents, Siilo enables easy integration with clinical platforms, allowing users to send files to the app, directly from their workstations.
This means PACS videos, lab test results or medical results can be sent within seconds to a colleague or a group of colleagues with this ‘add to Siilo’ functionality from your computer.
Registration includes a swift validation process, so a user’s peers can be sure that they are exchanging files and messages with certified professionals. In the UK, Siilo Messenger uses General Medical Council registers to verify users’ identities. Helpfully for compliance, Siilo’s data can be wiped remotely if a device is lost or stolen.
Finally, images and PDF files can also be blurred using a simple tool within the app, so that sensitive patient information can be obscured, or anonymised if required before files are sent to a user’s Siilo contact(s).
‘The ease with which you can upload PDFs that you have just read, for example, is a great feature. You can share new information on topics important to our discipline within a second. It’s like Twitter in this respect,’ adds Nef.