Email archiving and health

May 2015

Doctor using laptopMike Freeman, Sales Director, Techne-Comm Ltd, discusses the importance of email archiving in the healthcare sector.

Within the UK healthcare sector, NHSmail is rapidly being adopted by NHS trusts. As the only dedicated mail system to have received government ‘OFFICIAL SENSITIVE’ accreditation and be fully approved by the Department of Health for the purpose of sharing patient identifiable and other sensitive information.

As a result, the vast majority of NHS organisations are using it in some form, with usage growing due to the refresh initiative driven by HSCIC, as well as the approval of the ISB 1596 Secure Email standard in March 2014. NHS trusts and organisations are being encouraged to either move to NHSmail or bring existing email systems in line with the new standards.

NHSmail is currently being used by over 500,000 GPs, healthcare workers and other staff within the NHS. It brings a number of benefits to users - both those dealing directly with patients, as well as other staff, such as those in administration or procurement roles.

NHSmail is a national system, run by the NHS, ensuring that users can share folders and calendars across organisations. It is a secure service, with emails protected to the standards set out by the UK Government. NHSmail is also cost-effective, fast and always available, allowing users to have access to the information required 24-hours a day and from any device.

However, the one downside to NHSmail is that for the majority of users the size of the mailbox is limited; storage space is approximately 400MB. For users sending patient data, files and scans on a daily basis, this can be problematic, especially considering that much of this information must be kept for compliance and legal reasons. The role of email archiving therefore, is an important one.

The main requirements for an archiving solution are ease of use and accessibility. With the importance of the information being exchanged, it is crucial that it can be easily found and accessed, whilst remaining 100 per cent secure.

For NHSmail users, emails can be archived using Outlook Personal Storage Folders, also known as PSTs. The difficulty with using this format is that users are not necessarily aware of where these files are stored; they can be saved to the desktop of the user or a network drive, which undermines security and can cause storage issues.

Folders larger than 2GB are often prone to corruption and if this occurs, valuable data could be lost. PSTs are also costly to back up as a large amount of space is required when they are backed up regularly. In addition, searching for these files is complex, which can present a challenge when, for example, searching for a Freedom of Information (FOI) Act request.

For critical sectors, such as healthcare, archiving solutions should, therefore, be easy to use and accessible. Searching for specific information, for both the user and supervisor, is made easier if the personal folder structure of a mailbox is replicated within the archiving solution.

Additionally, being able to search according to different criteria - including keyword in the message or subject, date, sender or recipient etc. would ensure that emails can quickly be found based on little information.

Ideally, this archiving solution should not use PST folders, instead archiving emails and relevant information in a way that meets the security standards and does not employ methods such as stubbing or shortcutting.

The management of both the email system and the archiving solution plays a crucial role in the overall success of an organisation. For the NHS, in particular, having the correct technology and solutions in place will enable users to be more productive and effective, which can ultimately impact on patient care.

Image: Wavebreak Media/494385415

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    Mark Reynolds wrote on 20th May 2015

    Please note that this article is not endorsed by the Health and Social Care Information Centre that runs the NHSmail service. It has been written by a supplier of email archiving.

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