Healthcare & Secure Text Messages

If your group is in – or associated with – the medical sector, now would be a good point in time to consider secure text messaging for healthcare. Recent amendments to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) have passed new rules linked to how Protected Health Information (PHI) should be sent and many healthcare groups and other covered entities are at now in danger of financial sanctions and legal action should an avoidable breach of PHI happen.

The changes are unfortunate for some, as undoubtedly the usage of personal mobile devices has revolutionized communications in the healthcare sector. The speed and convenience of modern technology is often favored to older channels of communication like pagers, and healthcare groups benefit from the cost-savings of BYOD policies. However, the amendments to the HIPAA regulations effectively outlaw unsecure channels of communication such as text messaging and email.

The main reason why SMS and email are no longer thought of as appropriate channels through which to communicate PHI is because they permit unauthorized access to PHI. Unencrypted SMS messages can be intercepted over unsafe Wi-Fi networks, copies of emails remain indefinitely on ISPs’ servers and both SMS messages and emails can be freely downloaded on a lost, stolen or unattended mobile device. A major number of data breaches reported to OCR each year arise from lost or stolen mobile devices.

Due to this, the rules for communicating PHI over electronic devices were changed to introduce access controls, audit controls, integrity controls, ID authentication, and transmission security. The majority of mobile devices lack the necessary mechanisms to facilitate compliance with the updated HIPAA legislation; and, even if they did, it would be a logistical nightmare to enforce HIPAA compliant messaging policies.

Secure text messaging for healthcare addresses the issues created by the changes to HIPAA legislation. Implementing secure text messaging apps, medical professionals can communicate encrypted PHI from a desktop computer or mobile device within a private communications network. The secure text messaging apps have all the functionality of currently available apps and a familiar text-like interface, so none of the speed and convenience of modern technology is missing.

How secure text messaging for healthcare adheres with HIPAA is through the use of mechanisms to stop PHI being sent beyond a healthcare group;s network. The secure text messaging solution also permits PHI to be remotely erased from a user’s mobile device if it is lost or illegally taken, assigns message lifespans so that messages are deleted from a user´s device once they have been read, and forces automatic logoffs following a duration period of inactivity to further stop unauthorized access to PHI.

About Thomas Brown
Thomas Brown worked as a reporter for several years on ComplianceHome. Thomas a seasoned journalist with several years experience in the healthcare sector and has contributed to healthcare and information technology news publishers. Thomas has a particular interest in the application of healthcare information technology to better serve the interest of patients, including areas should has data protection and innovations such as telehealth.