What is Secure Messaging for Doctors?

Secure messaging for doctors means that physicians use an encrypted and secure smartphone app to exchange their patients’ health information with their colleagues. This means that the secure text messaging device used by the physician is compliant with the mandates of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

The mandate for patient privacy was initially set into effect by Congress with its 1996 HIPAA law. The goal of the 1996 HIPAA law was to encourage healthcare to computerize patients’ medical records. As a result of this initial mandate, Congress saw that they need to further clarify what patient information would be protected and how protection would be enforced.

With the later 2003 amendments, Congress defined protected health information (PHI) and instructed that PHI should only be disclosed if the patient permitted transmission. The institution of PHI ensured that any sort of secure messaging used by doctors focused on maintaining patient privacy and ensured its protection.

In the ensuing years, as smartphones became more popular among doctors, physicians came to use smartphones to exchange PHI. The Department of Health and Human Services realized that in order to protect PHI in these exchanges, secure messaging for doctors had to become mandatory. Until this time, doctors had primarily used pagers to exchange PHI and care-related messages. The healthcare establishment soon determined that exchange of patient information over pagers does not constitute HIPAA-compliant messaging.

The 2013 legislation enacted by Congress provided clarification of the penalties tied to breach of patient information. Breach of patient information can result if HIPAA-secure messaging is not used. Failure by healthcare facilities to use HIPAA-compliant secure messaging for doctors and other healthcare employees could also constitute a HIPAA fine.

By ensuring secure messaging for doctors and their colleagues, hospitals ensure the integrity of patient information and prevent its accidental exposure to those not authorized to access it. Indeed, HIPAA officials have cited health facilities for exchanging protected patient information that was neither encrypted nor password protected. If and when a HIPAA fine is instituted, the fine can reach several million dollars.

Why is Secure Messaging Necessary?

Secure messaging and HIPAA compliant messaging platforms are necessary to ensure that doctors comply with HIPAA statutes laid out by the 2013 Omnibus rule and by the earlier 2003 rule which issued directives on what constitutes PHI. A recent study shows that without enforcing the use of HIPAA-compliant platforms, healthcare workers will use non-secure methods of communication like texting or Facebook to exchange patient information. Use of these methods represent clear HIPAA violations.

Ensuring the security of patient information when exchanged over smartphones ensures patient privacy and improves the likelihood that patient information will not be accessed if devices are lost or stolen. Additionally, patient data will not be accidentally sent to the wrong person when secure messaging. Without the use of secure messaging by doctors, patients are at risk as well as the hospitals that serve them.

How to Ensure Secure Messaging for Doctors?

In order to ensure the use of secure, HIPAA-compliant messaging platforms, hospitals need to provide secure messaging for doctors that meet the following mandates:

  • Ensures 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 that are not permitted or required under subpart E of this part
  • Messages can only be sent to a pre-approved list

By providing secure messaging for doctors, hospital communications take an important step in protecting patients as well as themselves from HIPAA violations. With additional administrative features such as remote wipe and audit trails, hospital administrators are able to fulfill the mandates of HIPAA but take further steps to ensure  the integrity of the messages transmitted by employees.

Secure Messaging For Doctors

Secure Messaging for Doctors With OnPage

OnPage’s encrypted messaging platform enables secure messaging for doctors through the exchange of secure text messages, images and voice messages. All communications are secure and encrypted and are hosted in OnPage’s SSAE-16 compliant facility.

The application is straight-forward and easy-to-use. Physicians will be able to understand the functionality and begin using the application in under 10 minutes. Administrators will find the OnPage platform equally easy-to-use and will quickly learn how to upload schedules and follow audit trails.

An additional advantage of using OnPage is the cost savings it provides to hospitals as it offloads the security burden many healthcare facilities face when they adopt smartphones into their facility. OnPage takes care of the process of encryption and security and HIPAA compliance and allows hospitals to focus on their core competencies.

Specifically, by using the OnPage platform, hospitals will see the following success:

> Facilitate the exchange of patient information. Often physicians use pagers or hand-written notes to exchange information. Neither of these methods live up to the standards of HIPAA compliance. With OnPage, physicians will instantly exchange vital PHI as well as receive information from their colleagues.

> Reduce delays in contacting colleagues. OnPage provides persistent and immediate alerting which instantly alerts physicians when a colleague is trying to reach them. This advantage stands in stark contrast to pagers which only page the recipient once and are unable to provide a read receipt.

> Improve patient outcomes. By ensuring that physicians receive information more quickly, they reduce the chance for delays which can impact the quality of patient outcomes.

WHITE PAPER : Secure Patient Information With Secure Messaging

For healthcare organizations, data breaches cost an average $363 per lost record.

In our latest whitepaper, “Secure Patient Information With Secure Messaging,” we highlight the impact on patient security from the use of unsecured applications. We investigate:

  • The impact of attacks on healthcare
  • How employees are the largest culprit behind attacks
  • Seven ways hospitals can protect their electronic communications

By using secure messaging in healthcare, doctors and nurses will protect not only the privacy of their communications but also the privacy of their patients.

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