Back To Fundamentals: HIPAA-Compliant Texting

HIPAA-Compliant Texting

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The Text Messaging System is HIPAA-Compliant.

To answer that question, let’s go back to basics and examine HIPAA-compliant text messaging in healthcare settings. What is a HIPAA-compliant text message, and how can physicians, nurses, and other healthcare staff communicate quickly and securely without violating HIPAA regulations?

Clinicians today are operating in a mobile healthcare environment that is increasing. Providers often use mobile devices to text patients, even if there is no bring-your-own-device policy, to communicate vital health information quickly. Texting is quick and convenient, but it may need to be HIPAA-compliant and might even disclose a patient’s sensitive health information.

Are there secure and compliant communications with your providers?

Let’s look at HIPAA-compliant texting in healthcare settings to answer that question. What is HIPAA-compliant texting? How can healthcare professionals, nurses, and staff communicate quickly and securely without violating HIPAA regulations?

Are Text Messages HIPAA-Compliant?

A text message’s HIPAA compliance can be determined by examining several variables. The text might be HIPAA-compliant if it does not include personal identifiers. However, federal law may be violated if the text messaging platform does not follow specific technical safeguards for digital transmission.

While standard “short message service” (SMS) and “instant messaging” (IM) text messages are often non-compliant with HIPAA texting requirements, they also frequently fail to do so in the realm of “instant messaging” (IM). There is no control over an SMS or IM text message after it is sent. Some of the risks of non-HIPAA-compliant clinical communications include:

  • It’s easy to send messages to the wrong recipient mistakenly.
  • Someone other than the intended recipient may receive text messages.
  • Messages sent via SMS and most IM platforms are easily intercepted in transit and viewed because they are not encrypted.

An unauthorized individual may indefinitely view SMS and IMessages saved on service provider servers.

Did the HIPAA Texting Rules Change During COVID-19?

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The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has lifted the HIPAA violation penalties during the COVID-19 national health emergency. The HHS announced enforcement leniency for telehealth remote communication during COVID-19 in April 2020. According to the OCR, “under the notice, covered health care providers may utilize popular applications that enable video chats.” These applications include Apple FaceTime, Facebook Messenger video chat, Google Hangouts video chats, Zoom, and Skype.

During a national health emergency, healthcare providers can use these applications to provide telehealth services without being penalized for non-compliance with HIPAA regulations. Even though waivers and relaxed standards are in place, the OCR expects healthcare organizations to maintain strict HIPAA-compliant texting protocols and, at some point, will withdraw its current waivers. Relias Media wrote about this.

The notice of the OCR’s need for telemedicine and the temporary relief of HIPAA-related penalties emphasizes the awareness of the heightened demand for care during the global pandemic. Secure text messaging is becoming more popular nationwide as healthcare providers work to improve patient care while also providing clinicians with tools to enhance communication and cooperation.

Does Secure Text Messaging Protect Ephi? offers secure text messaging that adheres to HIPAA standards, ensuring the protection of ePHI. These systems typically include the following features:

  • Time-stamped message status notifications such as Sent, Delivered, and Read receipts are included.
  • Individual patient threads can be created, reducing the risk of confusion for clinicians.
  • After a certain amount of time, recipients are sent automatic reminder notifications for unopened messages.
  • It’s possible to attach large photos, videos, voice recordings, and documents to the message.
  • An ADT message (usually generated by the EHR) should be used to pull more patient information into the thread to make sophisticated features.

An article on HealthITSecurity said, ‘ Secure messaging systems are much more than just SMS messages. Healthcare organizations can authenticate a wide variety of users across a range of providers while also enabling secure communication.’ According to the article, healthcare organizations may detect clinical workflow issues by reviewing communication records. Healthcare leaders may learn valuable information by analyzing metrics related to their secure messaging platforms. A MedCityNews article states, ‘The audit trail should monitor who sent what and when, with data encrypted at rest and in transit.’ It should note that it should use the audit trail to confirm the delivery of secure messages.

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HIPAA-compliant texting has improved overall patient care by facilitating rapid exchanges of vital information. There has been an increase in demand for secure messaging in healthcare as a result of the need for rapid and secure communication between care team members.

According to The HIPAA Journal, secure messaging in healthcare has been shown to accelerate patient throughput, reduce medical errors, increase patient satisfaction, improve clinical outcomes, and significantly reduce costs while adhering to HIPAA. Healthcare organizations seeking to provide value-based care increasingly use clinical collaboration and communication tools. As healthcare organizations seek to streamline communication and workflows, more are turning to more sophisticated clinical collaboration platforms (CCPs), citing reasons such as the need to:

Keep Your Texting HIPAA-Compliant.

All healthcare communication elements should be easy to access. Nurses, in particular, should reduce alert fatigue. Across the care continuum, text messaging can be HIPAA-compliant. Whether communicating through mobile apps, voice-over-internet protocol (VoIP) calls, or text messaging, care teams are facing rapid technological change. Although many options exist in the marketplace for HIPAA-compliant text messaging, alert mobilization, and VoIP calls, these solutions allow certain care team members to communicate and collaborate. However, these solutions only sometimes extend across the entire care continuum, which limits a patient care team’s ability to operate with the most up-to-date critical information. This information may be critical for patient care and can lead to unnecessary and often redundant testing, resulting in delays.

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Specific clinical collaboration platforms have proved efficient in the provision of safe text message messaging for all of the care team members. For instance, Clinical Communications customers use our extensive role-based messaging system and our Patient Care Coordinator functionality to ensure that teams of care are informed of the most recent changes in a patient’s medical information., Patient Care Collaboration, adds the basic information about a patient directly to each thread of messages and lets team members quickly find out who else is part of the team and their status, and then quickly starts the team’s message.

How Can we Address the Need for HIPAA-Compliant, Readable Text?

There has yet to be a definitive date for an end to COVID-19’s national health emergency as the number of mutations increases and vaccines and boosters are still being given. Healthcare providers are under a lot of pressure to address the rising demand for healthcare services and the increasing number of viral outbreaks. Telehealth usage is expected to grow and possibly increase following the time that the crisis has been lifted.

In these situations, keeping HIPAA-compliant texts is useful and necessary, despite the temporary relaxation of a few HIPAA rules governing telehealth practice. One of the fastest and most cost-effective methods of ensuring compliance and avoiding violations is to use the clinical collaboration platform with features and services that can support HIPAA-compliant messaging for teams and individuals. Secure, HIPAA-compliant text messaging platform is not an option anymore in today’s highly competitive and fast-paced healthcare environments.

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