Evernote for Doctors Revisited: Privacy Issues and Yet More Uses

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Image of evernote from TwitterI'm an unapologetic fan of Evernote, a new searchable, friendly, available-anywhere, online personal database. As I've written previously (See "How Doctors Can Use Evernote As a Professional Memory Accessible Anywhere"), Evernote is a near-perfect tool for physicians who need to gather lots of information in multiple forms for patient care or research — papers, webpages, protocols, and potentially even patient notes and laboratory tests – and would like that information searchable, taggable, and available on their computers, the web, and even their cellphone. For ensuring that all your information is available and fluid, Evernote is the best service I've seen.

But why is Evernote only a near-perfect tool for doctors? While Evernote has many privacy safeguards in place, it is not compliant with HIPAA, the United States' medical privacy law. While understandable — receiving HIPAA certification is not simple — this is, unfortunately, a big deal. Although communication to the Evernote servers is encrypted and access is protected, transmitting protected health information to the Evernote severs is not allowed (in the United States, at least — see AppleQuack's Evernote tips below).

Until Evernote receives certification — the cryptic quote from customer support was, "At this time we do not plan to pursue HIPAA certification for our (consumer) Evernote service" — here's an alternative solution. (And by all means, please suggest others if you think of them.)
  • Install Evernote to an encrypted account with a strong password. (On the Mac, you would create a secure account which uses the FileVault service.)
  • Create a Notebook in Evernote which does not sync to the Evernote servers.
  • Use this account and this notebook for all protected health information.
If Evernote were HIPAA-compliant, what other uses could doctors find for it? AppleQuack, an excellent productivity site for doctors written by a Dr. Cris Cuthbertson, an Australian surgeon, has a list of "20 Ways Surgeons Should Use Evernote." (Being in Australia, she doesn't need to comply with HIPAA.) Here are a few:
  • Photograph your operation notes
  • Remember procedure and disease codes
  • Keep patient information handouts accessible
  • Keep patient demographics
  • Remember treatment protocols
  • Photograph or scan business cards
What other uses have you found for Evernote?

(Also published on The Efficient MD.)

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About the Author


MD, FACP, FASN

Dr. Schwimmer's blog explores the intersection of medicine, new technologies, and the Internet.

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