PDF’s Role in the Healthcare Electronic Records Revolution

Healthcare has been a leading industry for technology for decades, however, when it comes to distributing healthcare-related information outside of the confines of the hospital or doctor’s office, the industry has fallen significantly behind other technology leading industries, such as banking and financial.

One example of this difference is the ease with which a consumer can open a credit account with a major financial institution. The process takes a few minutes, all information is transferred to the necessary parties, and all financial institutions, including credit bureaus, can access it easily.

Not so with heath records. Healthcare has a long way to go before it reaches this level of ease and efficiency, however, the healthcare industry is beginning to create its own information-distribution processes and the Portable Document Format (PDF) features prominently in its evolution.

The DOSSIA system gives patients access to their digital medical records, with PDF ease

A new system called DOSSIA, which relies heavily on PDF software and PDF security, is under development. The DOSSIA system will allow users to access their own personal medical information quickly and easily. It will also make it much simpler for an individual to share his or her medical information with doctors and relevant healthcare organizations.

Despite the development of DOSSIA, there are still several difficulties that must be overcome, including privacy restrictions of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA), reluctance of many healthcare companies to share their information due to concerns about privacy, security, infrastructure limitations, liability, and the lack of medical record standards in the US.

Fortunately, PDF software and PDF security are making the PDF format a promising tool to solve these problems. Because of its adoption and acceptance, PDF is an ideal format for capturing healthcare information that can contain any combination of text, graphics and images. What’s more, a guide for the use of PDF in healthcare already exists.

PDF/H already offers guidelines for continued use of PDF in healthcare

Published in 2008, the PDF/H, a.k.a. PDF Healthcare, is a best practices guide, supplemented by an Implementation Guide. While not a standard or even a proposed standard, PDF/H provides guidelines for use with existing standards and other technologies.

The migration of medical records from paper to digital will benefit from the availability of an easy-to-adopt document encapsulation standard that meets healthcare industry requirements for portability, security and information exchange—which PDF already does, according to the healthcare experts who’ve developed PDF/H. In fact, PDF is already used in many healthcare organizations for sharing and storing device-independent medical records and imaging for those very reasons.

If PDF is fully adopted within the framework of DOSSIA and by organizations such as the Associate for Information and Image Management (AIIM), PDF software and associated PDF security measures will continue to play a key role in the standardization of medical record-keeping nationwide for years to come. And it will go a long way to enabling patients, their doctors and healthcare organizations to share life-saving data.

PDF Best Practices for the Legal Profession

Many firms and their clients are moving toward paperless offices (or at least, toward less paper, which is a feat in and of itself for most businesses and legal organizations). Meanwhile, clients are accessing law firm publications on a variety of devices, including smartphones, tablets, e-readers, and large multiple-monitor desktop environments.  It’s safe to say that with the proliferation of these devices, reading many kinds of legal documents occurs more frequently in the digital realm than on paper these days.

Needless to say, PDF has played a big role in this shift. Communications between clients, lawyers, and the courts, that once took weeks, now happen in minutes. Attorney questions are answered on the web, often published via PDF software originating within the firm. Still the law has an immense appetite for documents that need to be archived, retrieved, shared, and posted. Which is where PDF software becomes even more important to the legal profession.

Here’s how can you and your legal organization take full advantage of what PDF software has to offer you.

PDF Best Practices for Legal

As new usability features are added to PDF software such as Foxit PhantomPDF, some apply to the legal industry most directly.

For example, if you’re expecting your PDF content, such as your firm’s marketing brochures, to be printed, or you plan to do a large campaign that may benefit from personalization, consider exploring the PDF/VT standard. It allows you access to far better graphics, which, in turn, make for better printing. And you treat your PDFs as personalized campaigns in which you can address each recipient individually.

As many legal documents may be archived for long periods of time but will need to be accessible far into the future, consider using PDF/A. This ISO-standardized version of PDF was created specifically to enable you to preserve electronic documents over the long haul.

But how about getting your valuable and informative legal documents found online when they’re in PDF? Fortunately, it’s easy to make PDF documents search-engine-friendly by using the same SEO practices used on the web in PDF documents, such as:

  • Adding internal links.
  • Linking PDFs to other web pages.
  • Using keywords.
  • Optimizing images.
  • Keeping file size down.

Some other best practices for publishing PDF-based papers include:

  • Increase navigation by deep linking PDFs. You can enhance usability by deep-linking web pages to pages within a PDF document so that readers can jump directly to subtopics, and re-orienting the initial view and screen-size for the audience when they’re likely to be using tablets or smartphones.
  • Use PDF/A when filing documents. Many courts and legal entities around the country are beginning to require electronic filing. Some even specify PDF as the required format. So again, it makes sense to use PDF/A as it’s adapted for digital preservation and omits features that won’t work in long-term archives.
  • Use PDF/A for scanned documents when archiving. You may be able to make your PDF-to-PDF/A conversion a single step by using your document scanner. Many have embedded software that can view your PDF document and automatically convert the data into a searchable PDF/A file.
  • Ensure your PDF documents are secure. Of course, legal matters often mean confidential matters, so you may want to keep your PDF documents protected from prying eyes by using state-of-the art PDF Security features such as password protection, certificate protection and other security techniques.
  • Authenticate and validate users. You may want to use digital signatures or even obtain digital IDs from third-party validators to authenticate the identities of users as well as the document content. (See Chapter 9 – Security in the Foxit PhantomPDF User Manual for details.)

PDF software will be part of legal web publishing for a long time so it makes sense to use the PDF format to the best of its abilities to make legal work as streamlined as possible. After all, you’ve got enough to keep you busy.

Quick and Easy Ways to Keep your PDF Documents Up-to-date

It’s no surprise that, in your average office workday, documents need to be updated. So there are several features you should know about when it comes time to update a PDF document. These handy features will let you do a lot of changing and updating right in Foxit PhantomPDF for Business, without having to convert or revert your PDFs to Microsoft Word or Excel first.

Foxit makes editing your PDFs an easy task, thanks to the editing interface that works just like a familiar word processor. For example, there’s no need to worry about disturbing the layout of your document as you make changes. When you edit text in a paragraph with PhantomPDF for Business, the text will automatically reflow as you edit.

You can use the advanced editing features of PhantomPDF for Business to undo and redo actions, add headers and footers, insert background images, link to web page and other locations in your document, and also add images and video. Let’s take a deeper look.

Undo and Redo

As you make adjustments to your document you might accidentally press the wrong button and change things for the worse. But have no fear: you can easily undo or redo the most recent action you performed.

Headers and Footers

To spruce up your PDF document design, you may want to add headers and footers that include text and images. This is a snap to do with PDF editing software like PhantomPDF for Business. And once you’ve created your document’s header and footer, you can easily update both.

Background Images

You can create the perfect background for your document pages and then add it to any PDF document. Choose an image file from your computer or just select a color from the menu. The editing tools of the program allow you to determine the opacity of your chosen background, along with its size and exactly which pages in the document will have the background (you can select all pages, specify the page range, or even decide to just do even or odd pages).

Add Links

Want to direct readers to a specific page in your document or to related web pages? No problem. Just specify any rectangular area of the document to function as a link. You can also determine exactly how the linked area will appear by choosing the style and color of its border (solid, dashed, underline).

Insert Images and Video

Make your PDF more engaging and interactive by adding eye-catching images and video directly into your PDF document. Once you’ve inserted images, you can easily resize them so they fit any space you put them in.

Feeling empowered to do even more amazing things with your PDF documents? Great! Happy editing, updating and generally staying on top of those business documents.

How The Adobe Breach Might Affect You

This past October, Adobe Systems (makers of Adobe PDF software) announced that they had been the victims of a deliberate and concentrated hacking attack on their servers. When the dust settled, Adobe found that the hackers had gained access to over 38 million customer files, including customer IDs, credit and debit card information, and numerous other data points. In addition, Adobe revealed that their corporate source code for PDF software product Adobe Acrobat, as well as for other products like Cold Fusion and Cold Fusion Builder, were stolen as well.

More Information

It appears as though this is the largest hacking attack in Adobe’s history, and one of the largest hacks this year. What started as a breach of about 3 million customer accounts eventually grew to include over 152 million Adobe customers, with significant quantities of sensitive customer data appearing on cybercriminal websites.

The source code stolen from Adobe, including for Acrobat and Cold Fusion, can now be analyzed and used by hackers looking to exploit weaknesses in the code. This means that users of Adobe’s PDF software, web development applications, and a number of their other Adobe products may be vulnerable to hackers who now have an understanding of the weaknesses in the program code.

As a result of this breach, Adobe has been served a potential class action lawsuit in a California Federal court that accuses the company of failing to protect the sensitive private information of its customers.

What you can do to protect yourself

If you use Adobe software, including PDF software such as Acrobat or Reader, be aware that it may become vulnerable to the actions of hackers at some point. Read up on the latest updates and upgrades and make sure you’re on top of the news.

Also, if you’re an Adobe customer, you should strongly consider changing your password to minimize the possibility of being exploited by cybercriminals. Be sure to make your password complex by using combinations of numbers and letters, symbols, punctuation, and capitalization of letters. Also, never use words that can be easily looked up in a dictionary as hackers have software that does just that.

We also recommend that you remain vigilant about any e-mail attachments you open and the links that you click on.

As to what to do about the PDF software you use, this is a tricky one. We don’t want to advocate you removing software you rely on for business, be it ours or anyone else’s. Our best advice is, be careful.