Hospitals & Secure Text Messaging

Secure text messaging in hospitals is a cost-effective method for healthcare groups to adhere with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). The method works by maintaining encrypted PHI on a secure server, and allowing medical professionals to access and communicate sensitive patient data via secure messaging apps.

The solution is particularly useful for healthcare groups that have pursued BYOD policies, as the app works across all operating systems and devices, and replicates the speed and convenience of SMS messaging. Indeed, in many groups in which secure messaging for medical professionals has been implemented, communications have speeded up – with the result that productivity has grown and the standard of patient healthcare has been improved.

How Secure Messaging Apps Adhere with HIPAA

There are many ways in which secure messaging apps help healthcare groups to adhere with HIPAA. The requirement to log into the apps with a unique username and PIN code ensures compliance with the receipt authentication security measures while permitting the secure messaging platform to record access to PHI and compile an audit trail of how it is sent.

The secure messaging apps only permit PHI to be sent between authorized users, and controls are in place to ensure that PHI cannot be sent outside of the organization´s network or saved to a mobile device´s hard drive. Additional security features give administrators to ability to remotely retract and delete communications, and an authorized users can be deleted from the network if their mobile device is lost or stolen.

One of the main security concerns related to secure messaging for medical workers is when mobile devices or computers are left unattended. Medical professionals familiar SMS and unsecure messaging services will not be used to signing out of their device at the end of a conversation – potentially giving unpermitted third parties access to PHI. The secure messaging apps have this scenario taken into account, and they time-out after a period of inactivity of safeguard the integrity of PHI.

The Advantages of Secure Messaging for Medical Workers

Some of the security measures incorporated into the secure messaging apps have produced benefits which enhance productivity and enhance the standard of patient healthcare – most notably the message delivery alerts and read receipts. These two features inform senders that their messages have been received – eliminating phone tag and the requirement for follow up calls via insecure channels of communication, increasing message accountability and speeding up the flow of communication.

The text-like interface of secure messaging apps means that secure messaging for medical workers is easy to implement to and, as the secure messaging apps work in a similar way to other unsafe applications, medical workers can attach files, images and videos relating to their patients – thereby speeding up diagnoses and the course of treatment that should be administered to a patient. Secure text messaging in hospitals can also be used to share prescriptions with pharmacies – cutting wait times for patients and complying with Stage 2 Meaningful Use.

Although difficult to measure, possibly the most significant benefit of secure text messaging in hospitals is that it allows collaboration. Collaborative practice has been found to be the key to safe, high quality, accessible, patient-centered care; and secure messaging for medical workers enables departments to collaborate securely on issues such as admissions, emergency-room hand-offs, diagnoses, discharges and rehabilitation. One study estimated that discharge times could be reduced by 50% when completed by secure text messaging in hospitals – saving each healthcare facility an average of $557,253 per year.

Secure Text Messaging Policies in Hospitals

Such has been the success of BYOD policies, more than 80% of medical workers now use a personal mobile device in the workplace. Due to this it is essential that healthcare organizations introduce policies for secure text messaging in hospitals in order that medical workers are aware of the circumstances in which secure messaging apps should be used to send PHI.

A policy administrator should be appointed to develop and implement policies to ensure the proper usage of the secure text messaging solution, and the sanctions that will be applied if a staff member is found to be responsible for a PHI violation. Policies should be reviewed regularly – and amended as necessary – to account for changes in work practices, technological advances and further regulation which impacts secure text messaging in hospitals.

The fines for a breach of PHI can run into millions of dollars, and if a healthcare group has not put in place a mechanism to support secure messaging for medical professionals – and policies for secure text messaging in hospitals – it could prove to be a costly option to take.

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.