Blog

How to Ensure Fast, HIPAA Compliant Texting

Fast and secure messaging are critical to the success of the healthcare industry. When health information exchanges are quick and efficient, healthcare organizations benefit from improved patient care, streamlined clinical workflows, and happier/more engaged patients. That is why, in the modern age of smartphones, hospitals need fast and convenient systems that support HIPAA compliant texting in order to improve patient outcomes while still maintaining regulatory compliance.

While using smartphones in the clinical setting may have been frowned upon just a few years ago, the enhanced security measures and protocols built into cloud-based clinical communication platforms have helped to eliminate the concerns surrounding sharing sensitive patient data while texting. With enhanced mobile functionality, cloud-based clinical communication platforms can help to enable HIPAA compliant texting in healthcare settings.

The Increasing Prevalence of Smartphones

Nowadays, it seems as though everyone has a smartphone. According to Statista, well over 3 billion individuals use smartphones today.  That number is expected to grow to nearly 4 billion by the end of 2021.

Since most professionals have smartphones, texting in the workplace is becoming more commonplace, resulting in organizations across all industry sectors taking advantage of this type of communication. Smartphones and modern business communication tools enable teams to text instantly, share files, and even hold video and audio calls in real-time. People are naturally looking at their phones throughout the day anyway – an average of 52 times a day according to a recent Deloitte survey – so it makes sense to build upon what is already there.

With a growing number of companies implementing texting applications in their respective organizations, there are additional concerns regarding security and the potential of employees misusing these tools. This is especially true in the healthcare industry, where HIPAA violations can cost anywhere from $100 to $50,000 per violation.

Without guidelines in place, texting has the potential to harm the financial performance and reputation of a healthcare system. However, by understanding an organization’s communication needs and workflows, we can learn how to accommodate any privacy risk while still benefiting from the improved communication abilities of texting.

Texting in Healthcare

Most everyone who works in a hospital has a smartphone. A significant number of them use their devices in some capacity to make work easier while on the clock. Recent studies have shown:

  • 87 percent of physicians use smartphones to “support existing workflows”
  • 67 percent of nurses use smartphones during their shifts
  • 44 percent of hospitalists use a personal mobile device to communicate, with 17 percent using it to access patient data

Convenience is a driving factor here. As clinicians try to fit more patients into their busy schedules, they need tools that will make their jobs easier. They are already using smartphones to help manage their daily lives, so why not use them to quickly communicate with their colleagues and access patient data and test results on the go?

It is also worth noting that healthcare providers are increasing texting with patients as well. From 2011 to 2018, the number of patients who regularly text with healthcare providers more than tripled (5 percent vs. 17 percent). Some patients – around 11 percent – even list texting as their preferred method for receiving communications from their healthcare teams. This only makes healthcare systems even more reliant on texting.

Since healthcare professionals are increasingly using their personal mobile devices, additional practices and policies must be put in place to ensure that texting applications are secure and HIPAA compliant. From security controls to extensive documentation, incorporating certain guidelines ensures that patient information is protected against any potential threats. This helps health systems and individual clinicians avoid the legal and financial implications of non-compliance.

Risks to Avoid and How to Avoid Them

Whether messaging on a personal device or a device supplied by third-party providers, there are several errors to avoid in order to comply with HIPAA regulations. Since messages can reside on a mobile device indefinitely, information can be exposed to unauthorized third parties if left unchecked.

To ensure HIPAA compliant texting, messages containing patient information must be encrypted and secure. This starts with providers assessing any potential risks and vulnerabilities to the confidentiality and integrity of their electronic protected health information (ePHI).

Other threats to electronic patient information stored on a mobile device include theft, loss, and improper disposal. An unauthorized individual can also intercept the transmission of ePHI if the messaging platform is not secure.

To overcome these challenges, health systems are enforcing administrative policies, updating security measures, and opting to use alternative technologies such as vendor-supplied secure messaging applications. Better user education and protocol adoption are also essential to protecting patient information and staying HIPAA compliant. Clinicians themselves must understand the risks surrounding texting in the workplace.

For a more complete solution, cloud-based clinical collaboration platforms can enable fast and secure messaging for clinicians. These systems allow clinicians to communicate with their colleagues in real-time on a HIPAA compliant platform, right from their mobile device.

Cloud-based clinical collaboration platforms aren’t just a way to stay HIPAA compliant. They can vastly improve care team communication, enabling:

  • Increased productivity
  • Improved care
  • Better patient outcomes
  • More efficient workflows

That is why small-to-mid and large healthcare enterprises alike are turning to cloud-based clinical collaboration platforms to support their care team communication.

Staying Current with Communication

As healthcare communication evolves, it is imperative to place security controls around mobile devices and the use of text messaging. Texting improves clinical workflows, and with its easy and omnipresent nature, it is only a matter of time until all organizations implement this type of communication.

Just make sure that your texting is HIPAA compliant and follows all other standard security protocols.

Traditional text messaging is not secure and puts hospital systems at risk of non-compliance with HIPAA regulations. Interested in keeping your clinicians (and system) free from liability with the Halo Clinical Collaboration Platform?

Request a demo of the Halo Platform today!