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Secure hospital communication provides an encrypted way to exchange patient information—often referred to as protected health information (PHI)—between physicians, nurses and hospital staff. The security policy adheres to the mandates of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). Failure to comply with HIPAA regulations can result in hefty fines.
How to Maintain Secure Hospital Communication
When messages are sent through a hospital communication system, all communications must be encrypted to protect sensitive patient files and records.
As chief information officers (CIOs) introduce secure hospital communication systems to their organizations, they must maintain reasonable and appropriate administrative, technical and physical safeguards for protecting electronic protected health information (ePHI).
The Department of Health and Human Services states that organizations must:
Ensure the confidentiality, integrity and availability of all electronic protected health information which is created, received, maintained or transmitted.
Protect against any reasonably anticipated threats or hazards to the security or integrity of this information.
Protect against any reasonably anticipated uses or disclosures of this information.
Have a method for remote wipe of patient information from the HIPAA-compliant texting app if the app is lost or stolen.
Ensure compliance by users of the information.
Steps to Improve Secure Hospital Communication
Improvise the BYOD Program
Over 80 percent of physicians use their smartphones for work. Asking them to abandon their smartphones is futile. The real focus should be on device security. The U.S. government’s OCR highlights this when it wrote:
“Many threats are posed to electronic PHI (ePHI) stored or accessed on mobile devices. Due to their small size and portability, mobile devices are at a greater risk of being lost or stolen. A lost or stolen mobile … could trigger [a] HIPAA breach notification … for a HIPAA-covered entity or its business associate.”
Instead of limiting physician communication by banning bring your own device (BYOD) practices, hospitals must focus on ensuring the security of information exchanged between smartphones.
Make Communication Workflows Less Burdensome
Make the adoption of secure clinical communications easy. It is important that secure solutions are not overly cumbersome for end users. This is the traditional tradeoff between simplicity and security where maximizing one means disadvantaging the other. However, as clinicians are often pressed for time when managing patient responsibilities, it is crucial that clinical communication portals are focused on creating a seamless workflow.
Ensure Patient-Centric Communication
Most malpractice lawsuits are the result of poor communication between care team members. This means that if clinicians had been able to provide clear and precise communication through secure texting, there is a strong likelihood that miscommunication-based errors would be avoided.
Ensure the secure hospital communication solution you adopt supports the safe exchange of texts, images, documents and voicemails across care teams.
Elevate High-Priority Alerts From the Rest
Not every alert or communication requires immediate attention. As such, ensuring that clinicians have a way to separate high from low-priority alerts is essential. This means that critical issues, such as the results from an important patient MRI or severe drug reactions, are immediately addressed and resolved by care teams. However, a request for a medication refill can be handled at an opportune time and should only produce a low-priority alert.
Use Features to Facilitate Security
As part of facilitating security, features such as a secure login process, specified contact lists, the remote wipe of devices and encrypted messaging can vastly increase the user’s ability to keep ePHI safe and secure. It is important that secure clinical communication platforms provide these functionalities.
Benefits | OnPage Secure Hospital Communication Solution
OnPage’s secure hospital communication solution provides on-call rotations and escalations. Web console administrators can task physicians and create “turns” if the first person is unavailable. This helps eliminate physician burnout. OnPage also provides distinguishable high-priority alerts. This way, on-call physicians will always know the severity of alerts!
Current integrations include OpenEMR and Amion physician scheduling. OpenEMR continuously monitors a patient’s electronic medical records and triggers an alert to physicians and/or care teams via the OnPage smartphone app. The Amion integration allows care teams to automate the manual on-call process and give patients direct 24/7 access to on-call physicians.