HIPAA Compliance & Text Messages

Sharing PHI in text messages and HIPAA compliance are not usually words you would find beside each other. Sharing Protected Health Information (PHI) in any unsecure electronic format was effectively made illegal when changes were made to the HIPAA Privacy and Security Rules in 2013.

Of particular importance to sharing PHI in text messages and HIPAA compliance are the technical security measures of the Security Rule. These state that mechanisms must be implemented to control access to PHI, to account for how it is used, and to ensure the persons sending and receiving PHI are really who they say they are.

Additionally, any PHI transmitted outside of a group’s internal network has to be encrypted in order that it is unreadable, undecipherable and unusable should it be intercepted on the move – often an impractical task in groups where employees used multiple operating systems over multiple devices.

The issue of sharing PHI in text messages is particularly grave for healthcare groups that have implemented BYOD policies. It has been calculated that around 80% of physicians use a personal mobile device to manage their projects. Without an appropriate, HIPAA-compliant alternative to sending PHI in text messages, the flow of communication in a healthcare group will be impacted significantly.

Secure Messaging Solutions Address Concerns Issues Surrounding Text Messages

Secure messaging solutions work by establishing a private communications network within a healthcare group. The network can only be accessed by authorized personnel via secure messaging applications that can be downloaded onto any device or operating system. The apps work in a similar fashion to commercially available messaging apps, and have a text-like interface that users will recognize instantly.

The main difference from a user point of view between secure messaging apps and commercially available apps is that authorized personnel will have to authenticate their ID by logging in with a centrally-issued username and PIN number at the start of every session. Automatic logoffs also are in place to stop unauthorized access to PHI when a mobile device or desktop computer is left unattended.

In the background a lot more is going on to enable the sending of PHI in text messages and HIPAA compliance. All communications that take place between authorized personnel are encrypted and all activity on the network is reviewed. Security mechanisms stop PHI from being sent outside of the network, copied and pasted or saved to an external hard drive.

Messages are given message lifespans so that they delete automatically, and administrators have the ability to remotely retract and erase any message that is sent or received on a mobile device that is later lost, stolen or otherwise disposed of. All of these precautionary measures against the unauthorized access of PHI make the relationship between text messages and HIPAA compliance acceptable.

The Advantages of Secure Messaging

Secure messaging is more than just a way of addressing the issue of text messages and compliance. Due to the security mechanisms put in place to ensure message accountability, phone tag is practically prevented – resulting in a higher level of productivity for medical professionals. Community nurses can heighten patient concerns without returning to the office and on-call doctors can receive PHI on the go with secure messaging.

The group messaging capabilities of secure messaging solutions allow collaboration and can be used to speed up hospital admissions and patient discharges. When working with an EMR, secure messaging has been seen to lessen patient safety incidents by 27% and reduce medication mistakes by 30%, and prescription errors can be addressed much quicker with secure texting than by fax.

Along with enabling medical professionals to share text messages and HIPAA compliance be assured, secure messaging enhances productivity, streamlines workflows and improves the standard of healthcare provided to patients. Secure messaging is also inexpensive when compared to other potential solutions for the sending PHI in text messages and HIPAA compliance.

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