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What is a HIPAA-Compliant Texting App?

what is a HIPAA-compliant texting app

What is a HIPAA compliant texting app? A HIPAA-compliant texting app is an application that physicians, nurses and hospital employees use to exchange the personal health information (PHI) of patients who are being treated by the facility or clinic. A HIPAA compliant texting app must be employed when healthcare employees send messages that contain identifying patient information. This mandate of patient privacy was set into effect by Congress with its  1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) that decreed the importance of maintaining patient privacy and ensured its protection.

Failure by healthcare employees to use a HIPAA compliant texting app when sending messages to colleagues can constitute a HIPAA fine. 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.

What is required for a HIPAA-compliant texting app?

For a healthcare facility to employ a HIPAA compliant texting solution, the facility must find a HIPAA compliant text messaging product that ensures all exchanged texts and messages that contain patient information are both secure and encrypted.

 

When hospitals and clinics introduce HIPAA compliant instant messaging into their organization, they must maintain reasonable and appropriate administrative, technical and physical safeguards for protecting the electronic PHI. The Department of Health and Human Services states that organizations that use a HIPAA-compliant texting app must ensure that all information is:

  • Protected against reasonably anticipated threats or hazards to the security or integrity of this information
  • Protected against reasonably anticipated disclosures of this information
  • Wiped in the case of a lost or stolen app

 

What are the benefits of using a HIPAA compliant texting app?

The benefits of using a HIPAA compliant texting app are highlighted when one simply reads how the use of such an application improves communication between nurses and physicians. Rather than tracking down colleagues via pager and not being able to reach them in a timely manner, the use of a hipaa-secure texting app facilitates communications.

Decreased Costs and Improved efficiency

According to the Ponemon Institute, the use of traditional pagers in a healthcare setting adds on to the cost and time it takes to care for a patient. The Ponemon Institute notes that pagers cost the healthcare industry approximately $11B per year. These costs were the result of pagers causing delays in providing patient care as well as in wasted time from using pagers to coordinate care. Waiting to get access to the right doctor as well as exchanging the correct information were all delayed due to pagers.

Patient benefits

One of the main benefits of HIPAA compliant messaging is seen through the advantages they have in bettering patient outcomes. According to a study by the University of Pennsylvania, “patients whose hospital care providers used mobile secure text-messaging as a means of communication had shorter lengths-of stay compared to patients whose providers used the standard paging system to communicate”.  The results of the study further indicated that mobile secure text messaging may help to improve communication among providers leading to more efficient care coordination and allowing patients to leave the hospital sooner.

Conclusion

Clearly, the use of a HIPAA-compliant texting app is required if healthcare is to use electronic messaging in the care of their patients. However, the use of a HIPAA compliant texting app by physicians, nurses and other healthcare employees ensures more than just the protection of patient information. It also ensures what all healthcare employees wish for: better patient outcomes.

To learn more about HIPAA-compliant texting apps, download our whitepaper on The Benefits of HIPAA-Compliant Texting.