In a world of digital handhelds, transcription software and internet-based outsourcing, independent transcriptionists and medical record directors alike face a challenging task in the routing of digitally dictated files. With so many types of files, methods of transfer, and regulations on patient information, it is easy to get overwhelmed.
Many people ask, “What is the best solution to get my dictations and reports from here to there?” There is no easy answer, as every situation is different. To stay on top of your work load, you should be aware of the choices you have and the advantages and disadvantages of them.
We use email daily to communicate with customers, coworkers, friends, and family. It is used to send files and documents around the office, and for that purpose it can work quite well. But for transferring large files, many files, or maintaining a level of security, many times email falls short of the bar.
When should you use email? When the information being sent is not sensitive patient information or is being used in conjunction with other security measures.
Not all email is created equally. Some people may be able to receive a lot of email before their inbox is full, some can’t. Email providers may limit the types of files that can be sent to their users and some may limit the size of a single attachment. This is especially true of free email providers.
Lake of information. Unless you host your own email server, the amount of information about where you files have gone may be nil. The common type of email, called POP3, has no logged information on the server side. It is almost the same as handing a letter to the postman-you to just hope it gets where you addressed it.
Lake of security. Do you remember your email password? Some users don’t realize their email account requires a password. Most email applications automatically save your password. While this may seem convenient to the primary user of the email account, it also means that anyone who walks by your computer can check your email and possibly download your sensitive information.
File Transfer Protocol
Looking for an alternative to email? Why no try the most reliable way to move files on the Internet? Though file transfer protocol, commonly known as FTP, files re stored on a remote server and can be sent to or from anywhere there is a connection to the Internet. While most files are readily available from anywhere on the Internet, FTP requires specific knowledge to access files.
This is a list of information someone would have to guess to access an FTP site:
• Site Address
• Port Number
The security level is increased due to the fact that the above information is different and to access files, one would have to know all of this information. This is further supported bhy the ability to use 128-bit encrypted communications with some FTP servers. This ability is called SFTP (or secured file transfer protocol.)
Another advantage of FTP is the logging that takes place. For every file moved, about four lines of loggin information are generated. This gives you a way to track a file’s movement in the vent troubleshooting is necessary.
Access is key. Files can be moved to and from anywhere in the world using FTP.
File limitations are few. While FTP sites may base their chargers on the amount of space you use, or the amount of traffic the FTP generates, in either scenario, the standard limitations of FTP sites are more than adequate to move dictations.
Security is tight. It takes file pieces of information to log into an FTP server, and all communications may optionally be encrypted using 128-bit encryption.
Information is bountiful. FTP takes advantage of communications and log files to help you track files and troubleshoot issues. It logs date and time of events, as well as the names of the files it is moving.
If you computer is in an office, chances are that you use network transfers on a daily basis. Network transfers allow you to share documents on your computer with other people and allow you to access shared documents on other workstations and severs alike. Locations where files can be accessed across a network are called “shares.” To access shares you can browse your Network Neighborhood, or type in a path that looks something like this:
Accessing a share will look like browsing your computer. You will see files and folders as if they were on your PC.
Using shares to move files is a very efficient way to get things done in the office. You usually do not need any password information, although you may place passwords on shares to increase their security. All you have to do to move files in or out of a share is drag and drop, or copy and paste, like you would when moving files on your local computer. It is that simple.
One drawback to this method is availability. When you leave your office, you do not have access to these files without special software (called VPN or virtual private networking) and permission from the network administrator. It is important to keep in mind that this drawback is also the most important reason to use network transfer-the lack of availability serves as a very powerful form of security.
Network Transfer Considerations
Easy does it. Network transfers are the easiest way to get a file moved. Simply drag and drop and the file is on its way.
Blazing fast. Compared to any Internet connection, moving files over a LAN (local area network) is anywhere between 10 and 100 times faster!
Not always there when you need it. When you leave the network where you had moved the files, you cannot access them without special software and permission.
Old reliable. Network transfers have been around since the creation of networks. Before email, before FTP, there were network transfers. Your FTP site may crash, your Internet connection may fail, but 99% of the time you will be able to access files over your network.
Direct Connection Transfers
The least used type of file transfer would likely be a direct connection transfer. In this form of cyber-transit, files are transmitted over the Internet or network from one specific program to the same program on another computer. Think of it as a reserved lane on the Internet superhighway. Only people with the specific program you used to send the file can receive it.
Direct connect is by far one of the most secure forms of transfer and is complemented by available 128-bit encryption in man y cases. These specific applications may also allow someone to move files by one or more of the other means discussed in this article as well.
The drawback of direct connect is the transfer requires both sides being on the Internet with the application running. This can be an issue for some people. As long as you can make sure that both sides are ready, this method can have the most advantages.
Direct Connect Considerations
Under lock and key. Arguably the most secure transfer type. In most cases, direct connect can even add 128-bit encryption.
Opposites do not attract. You must have the same program as the receiving end, or vice versa. Two different programs will not work together.
Most applications offering direct connect will add the ability to encrypt and even send in other methods described in this article, some of them automatically.
Bringing it all together
There are many different methods of file transfer available today. Some of them are better suited for certain environments than others. While no one can tell you the best method, or combination of methods, it is very important that you understand the options available to you when implementing a file-moving solution. In any situation you will find that a application which allows you to initiate direct connection transfers will become your greatest ally. A good application of this sort will encrypt the files it sends.
A great application will send in any of the above method, allowing that encryption your confidential information deserves, and will do it completely on its own.
Written by Dennis Kurlinski, Senior Technician. TranscriptionGear.Com.